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Definitive film about American design icons Charles and Ray Eames to be premiered in the U.S.
Ray and Charles Eames examining the sling locations to be covered by fabric lapping in a prototype of the Aluminum Group Lounge Chair, 1957. ©Eames Office, LLC.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- “The Eames Era,” began in the optimistic flush of American victory during World War II, and the global impact of the Eames aesthetic continues to grow unabated today. Now, First Run Features presents the U.S. Theatrical premiere of Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s definitive and unprecedented cinematic foray into the private world of the Renaissance-style studio that Charles and Ray Eames conceived in a cavernous warehouse on a gritty street in Venice Beach, California where design history was born. Eames: The Architect and the Painter will open at the IFC Center in New York on November 18th, at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles on November 18th and at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco on December 2. Other play dates in select cities around the country to follow.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter, insightfully narrated by James Franco, is the first film to be made about Charles and Ray since their deaths — and the only one that peers deeply inside the link between their artistic collaboration and sometimes tortured love for one another.

Despite their unrivaled impact on American design, the personas of the steadfastly private Charles and Ray Eames have remained oblique beyond the giddy publicity photos they doled out to inquiring journalists while they were alive. Eames: The Architect and the Painter draws extensively from a virgin cache of archival material, visually stunning films, love letters, photographs and artifacts produced in mind-boggling volume by Charles and Ray with their talented staff during the hyper-creative forty-year epoch of the Eames Office. Interviews with family members, including Charles’ insightful grandson Eames Demetrios, and design historians guide the viewer on an intimate tour of the Eames era, while junior designers who were swept into the 24-7 world of “The Eamery,” as they called it, flesh out a fascinatingly complex blueprint of this husband-and-wife powerhouse. The film shares a candid view of the emotional inner lives of two great American artists asthey apply their genius to practical problems and innovation, not out of a sense of ego, but out of sheer creative necessity.

Charles and Ray’s career symbiotically tracks major developments in postwar America. Just as California was becoming a viable counterweight to the cultural power of New York, the Eameses moved to Los Angeles. Their light and whimsical designs, particularly the landmark house they built in the Pacific Palisades, became emblematic of a new West Coast lifestyle whose influence reached Europe, Asia, and beyond. And, as American society began shifting away from manufacturing and towards an economy based on ideas and communications, the Eames Office was always a step ahead. Eames: The Architect and the Painter incorporates clips from their films and exhibitions for clients like IBM, Westinghouse, Polaroid and the U.S. government, which pushed the envelope for communicating complex ideas to mass audiences.

Eames buffs and design aficionados will be delighted at the opportunity to hear Charles and Ray in their own words, thanks to never-before-seen interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the designers at home and in their studio. The filmmakers discovered revelatory outtakes from a 1973 public television film in a Wisconsin historical archive and had the film restored and transferred with a grant from the household goods company OXO.

One of the most lasting Eamesian innovations was the technique known as “information overload.” Their 1959 project “Glimpses of the USA” featured thousands of images of American life projected simultaneously on seven enormous screens. It was shown to Russian audiences at the height of the Cold War. The strategy was later employed in the landmark IBM-sponsored film “Powers of Ten,” and with the popular but widely criticized bicentennial exhibition, “The World of Franklin and Jefferson” foreshadowed the layering of massive amounts of information on the Internet.

The work of Charles and Ray Eames remains an ideal of design at its most virtuous. It represents an alchemical combination of beauty and purpose, for designers and consumers alike. Though the Eameses are best known for their ubiquitous furniture and the signature innovation of the molded plywood chair, this essential documentary shows Charles and Ray applying the same process of inquiry to architecture, large-scale exhibitions, and their quirky, beautiful films. As Franco’s narration quickly makes clear, the film’s subtitle contains a grain of irony. Ray was a brilliantly trained painter who rarely painted, and Charles was an architecture school dropout who was never licensed to practice. Contemporary design historians may argue about how to delineate Charles and Ray’s respective roles in the prodigious Eames design output, but this documentary reveals how Charles, Ray and the other Eames Office designers themselves actually dealt with these endemic questions of authorship and control. The film shines a light on the genuine legacy of Eames design, which elevates the marriage of aesthetic refinement and functionality to a higher plane.

Featuring interviews with Charles Eames’ daughter, Lucia and grandson, Eames Demetrios, filmmaker Paul Schrader, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, noted architect Kevin Roche and a cast of former Eames Office designers, including Jeannine Oppewall, Deborah Sussman and Gordon Ashby.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter is produced by Quest Productions and Bread and Butter Films. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey, Producers. Edited by Don Bernier. Narrated by James Franco. Narration written by Jason Cohn. Co-Producer: Camille Servan-Schreiber. Associate Producer & Archivist: Arwen Curry. Musical Score: Michael Bacon. Executive Producer, Shirley Kessler.

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