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‘Sagrada’: Lackluster documentary on fascinating subject

“Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation” is a documentary enthralled by its subject: the endlessly fascinating La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Zurich-born Stefan Haupt, however, interrupts his rapturous tour of this basilica with lackluster interviews. A foreman, a stained-glass artist and the prof who authored “The Unknown Christ of Hinduism” add little more than the mute dancer Hault poses for unilluminating interludes.

A paean to creative impulses, this work channels the vision of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. A lithe camera frames cranes, scaffolding and welder’s sparks amidst the profusely fantastic architecture. The Order of St. Joseph originally commissioned him in 1882. A succession of architects and artisans continued the project after his death in 1926.

Three million tourists a year buy tickets to visit this folk-art folly. That subsidizes the ongoing construction, implies the narrator. He never says if church or state supply any funds. As for the spiritual function of the structure, there’s a half-minute showing a mass, plus a bit more for a papal drive-by.

Haupt’s adulatory angle is clear when we learn a Japanese sculptor converted to Gaudi’s faith and now seeks to beatify him. We do not hear from George Orwell, who called the idiosyncratic cathedral “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.” The English writer wished it leveled during Spain’s civil war: “I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance.”

The Gene Siskel Film Center is also screening Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “Antonio Gaudi.” This 1984 film explores the organic shapes and spaces of the basilica and other Gaudi buildings that Haupt omits. Although this reverential inventory contains very little commentary, its cinematography is less inventive than “Sagrada’s.”

[s3r star=2.5/4]

First Run Features presents a documentary directed by Stefan Haupt. In Spanish, Catalan, French and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 93 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.