GFF 2019: Mackintosh Redux

The champion of local talent at this this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, Mackintosh Redux is a beautifully restored film currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Focussing on the Mackintosh design, it delves into the life of the man behind some of the fantastic buildings and works of art which make Glasgow so recognisable. Director Murray Grigor takes the line that Mackintosh was a pioneer of modernism and the Bauhaus movement and spends due time investigating into how Mackintosh refined his signature style and rejected the work of other architects at the time, who he referred to as ‘Copyists’ for the lack of imagination and forward-thinking in their design.

The cinematography has been stunningly restored frame by frame by NLS moving image and the film also boasts a new score, recorded by the Scottish Chamber orchestra. The music compliments the commentary, provided by Grigor himself, and blends well with the fifty year old screenplay. At times however, the music does often feature the odd jarring chord or interval, which, while meant to highlight the meaning behind some of Mackintosh’s paintings, does sit uncomfortably on the ear.

The key Mackintosh design the film focuses on is the famous Glasgow School of Art. Mackintosh was uncompromising when it came to the School; during construction, when the directors of the Art school fretted about the cost, Mackintosh offered to half his fee, rather than compromise on any aspect of the design. Grigor highlights the immense detail he put into his masterpiece, emphasising his passion by conveying that everything from the size of the windows to the door knobs was designed by Mackintosh personally.

Towards the end of the film, Grigor focuses on the watercolour work Mackintosh did while he lived in the south of France. He highlights how many people thought of his design as extremely modern even decades after his death, drawing particular focus to the fact that he was still being asked to lecture in Japan in the late 1970s, despite having died 50 years earlier in 1928.

Make no mistake; Mackintosh Redux has long been beloved, often credited with restoring the reputation of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who at the end of his life became disillusioned with architecture and died relatively unknown.  Half a century after its release, this is a film which is still of relevance today in a city grieving the loss of one of its most loved buildings. It presents a beautiful and nostalgic look back at the life and work of an artist who, despite being underappreciated at the time, has come to be world renowned. Yes, the film is heavily detailed and can at some points feel slow, but this is compensated for by the rich detail and clear affection Grigor generously provides.


Mackintosh Redux screened 21st February at Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Glasgow Film Festival programme.

by Archie Grant