Happy August, American Masters fans!
This month, American Masters is proud to present Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future to celebrate the architectural giant’s birthday on August 20 and Itzhak to mark the remarkable violinist’s birthday on August 31. And, of course, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, as it recently premiered on August 2 on PBS, and is now available to stream until August 30.
Best known for her science fiction and “Earthsea” fantasy series, celebrated and beloved author Ursula Kroeber Le Guin (1929–2018) wrote 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, 12 children’s books, six volumes of poetry and four of translation during her life. American Masters presents the first documentary film exploring the remarkable life and legacy of the prolific and versatile author.
Produced with Le Guin’s participation over the course of a decade, American Masters – Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin tells the intimate coming-of-age story of the Portland, Oregon, housewife and mother of three who forever transformed American literature by bringing science fiction into the literary mainstream. Through her influential work, Le Guin opened doors for generations of younger writers like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and David Mitchell — all of whom appear in the film — to explore fantastic elements in their writing.
The film explores the personal and professional life of the notoriously private author through revealing conversations with Le Guin as well as her family, friends and the generations of renowned writers she influenced. Visually rich, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin illustrates the dramatic real-world settings that shaped Le Guin’s invented places using lush original animations over her own readings of her work to provide a firsthand experience of her fantastic worlds.
American Masters — Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future explores the life and visionary work of Finnish-American modernist architectural giant Eero Saarinen (1910-1961). Best known for designing National Historic Landmarks such as St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center (Warren, Mich.), Saarinen also designed New York’s TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Yale University’s Ingalls Rink and Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges, Virginia’s Dulles Airport, and modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair. His sudden death at age 51 cut short one of the most influential careers in American architecture.
Saarinen’s son, director of photography and co-producer Eric Saarinen, ASC (Lost in America, The Hills Have Eyes, Exploratorium), visits the sites of his father’s work on a cathartic journey, shot in 6K with the latest in drone technology that showcases the architect’s body of timeless work for the first time. The documentary also features rare archival interviews with Eero and his second wife, The New York Times art critic Aline Saarinen, as well as letters and quotations from Aline’s memoirs voiced respectively by Peter Franzén and Blythe Danner.
From Schubert to Strauss, Bach to Brahms, Mozart to…Billy Joel, Itzhak Perlman’s violin playing transcends mere performance to evoke the celebrations and struggles of real life. Director Alison Chernick’s (The Jeff Koons Show, Matthew Barney: No Restraint) new documentary provides an intimate, cinéma vérité look at the remarkable life and career of this musician, widely considered the world’s greatest violinist.
The film looks beyond the 16-time Grammy-winning musician to see the polio survivor whose parents emigrated from Poland to Israel, and the young man who struggled to be taken seriously as a music student when schools saw only his disability. In the film, Perlman’s life story unfolds through conversations with fellow musicians and friends, including Billy Joel, Alan Alda, pianist Martha Argerich, cellist Mischa Maisky, and his wife of 50 years, Toby. The Perlmans dedicate their lives to their large Jewish family in New York City, shared love for music and continual support of young musicians. American Masters: Itzhak is a portrait of musical virtuosity that explores themes of Jewish identity, Jewish history, humor and love.