"At every premiere," Pollack adds, nodding in agreement, "I stand in the back, I never sit, worrying. And then maybe I hear them laugh or whatever and the muscles unclench a little. But always I feel like it's a fluke, that I'll never be able to do it again."
Well, not exactly. Some of the most interesting commentary in "Sketches" comes from Milton Wexler, the prominent Hollywood psychoanalyst who Gehry has seen for years. Pollack's wife too is part of Wexler's following.
"We almost lost him a few weeks ago," Gehry says of Wexler, who is 97. "The doctor called and I said, 'You tell that son of a bitch he has to hang in there because a lot of us need to talk to him about some important things.' When I think about all the friends in my life," Gehry says, "I keep thinking, 'If only I could get them to Milton.' "
Pollack, however, would not be one of them. "My wife took me to enough of those group sessions for me to know that this wasn't for me," he says, laughing. "I saw Milton at parties. I think a lot of creative people are uncomfortable with therapy," he adds. "Because you're basically trying to 'solve' the unconscious. And the unconscious is where it all comes from."
Gehry nods. "It is sacred ground," he says. "And you're afraid if you mess with it too much, you'll somehow uncork it."
Though it's hard to imagine two men more well-versed in their respective crafts, both say the five-year process of making the film proved revelatory. Not only did they learn things about each other — "Frank is the most forthcoming, least guarded major talent I have ever met," Pollack says, adding as if he still doesn't quite believe it: "He has no second agenda" — they also learned things about their work.
"I wish I had done this 20 years ago," says Pollack. "There's a looseness [in shooting a documentary]. When you're shooting a feature that costs $200,000 a day with a crew of 250, you don't want accidents, you want to know exactly what's going to happen. But with a documentary, you don't, so you have to be sensitive to accidents because that is where the gold is. That's the way some directors work — Cassavetes, Altman — but I've never been one."
For his part, Gehry was shown, by a sequence of the film, that his art is not so different from painting, a genre he has always felt beyond his ken.
"I didn't believe it when Sydney said that what I do is not so far from painting," Gehry says. "But when I saw it, I did believe it. For the first time."
He hopes that the partnership he and Pollack have forged will carry over into other areas of the arts — specifically, he wants the two of them to collaborate on an opera. "They've been at me for years to do one," Gehry says. "And it's a field in which you can really play."
Pollack isn't saying no, but right now he's focusing on "Sketches." The film is scheduled to screen at Cannes, and Gehry is leery about attending; mention the terms "fame" and "movie star" to him, even in jest, and he winces as if nausea were rising within him.
"I'm not aware of that," he says with a dismissive wave. "I'm too busy being freaked out about a new project, dealing with client relations, expectations." He diplomatically declines to name the project. "Whatever project I'm doing, it's the most important project of my career. I'm insecure always, so dealing with fame is perpetually annoying."
Pollack, on the other hand, will be there. Despite having four films in post-production and several more in various stages of production, his next few weeks will be spent doing publicity for "Sketches." He rattles off a list of European cities he'll be stopping in before and after Cannes to create buzz for the film.
"It's going to be shown in Europe? My God," Gehry says when he hears this. "You know what I see? The architecture critics coming out," he says, miming the biting claws of crabs. "They're already out over the jewelry."
"The jewelry" refers to the designs Gehry recently made for a collection by Tiffany & Co. Pollack tells him he is leaving the next day for London for a Tiffany-sponsored gala, which will link the collection with the film.
"There's no money in documentaries," Pollack says with a shrug. "So this is cross-fertilization. They're using shots from our movie, so I'll be there." This is news to the architect, and for a moment, Gehry just stares at his friend. When he speaks, it seems he's talking more to some collective gathering — of muses perhaps.
"Can you believe someone like this is doing something like that for me?" he asks, and it's difficult to gauge the level of jest, if any. "See, this is when I can't quite believe any of this has happened."