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"Eames: The Architect and the Painter": Detailed Doc Leaves Artist's Personal Life Left Unexamined 

Wednesday, Nov 30 2011
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"The best for the most for the least" was the utopian business credo of Charles Eames, who with his wife, Ray, revolutionized mid-20th-century industrial design and presaged the information age. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey's glowing appraisal of the couple dutifully lists their accomplishments as creative business partners — the chairs, their Pacific Palisades house, their short films, their Cold War exhibitions — while also too briefly discussing the mechanics of their romantic relationship. Narrated by James Franco, whose script readings are often punctuated by his Beat-poetry inflection from Howl, Eames offers testimony from several employees at Charles and Ray's Venice, Calif., office: He is recalled as charismatic (especially with the ladies), handsome, and sometimes unwilling to share credit; she is remembered as the deferential but equal collaborator occasionally referred to as "Crazy Ray-zy" for her extreme pack-rat habits. A clip from The Arlene Francis Show in the 1950s shows Ray good-naturedly enduring the TV hostess's repeated insult, "She is the woman behind the man" — a stoicism that would serve her 20 years later, when Charles almost left her for a much younger woman. "I think their marriage was a mystery to everyone," an Eames worker notes — an observation true of every couple that you'll wish the filmmakers had explored more deeply.

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Melissa Anderson

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