The controversial story of the artist Christo's grand-scale environmental art project in Japan and California that ended in the tragic death of two of its spectators. At its world premiere ... See full summary »
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In February, 2005, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude installed 7,500 arches (gates), curtained with orange cloth that waved and billowed and decked miles of walkways in Central Park. The gates stood for 16 days, the first unfurled by Mayor Bloomberg, who championed the project, giving it the okay after the artists' 25-year quest to gain approval. Archival footage shows pro-and-con debates and various mayors and commissions turning down the project. By the end, the gates installed, the camera travels a winter landscape, orange shining through trees and reflected in ponds. Passers-by, quintessential New Yorkers, express pleasure. Art dwarfs the nay-sayers. Written by
I went to the Gates, the Cristo creation back in 2005, only once, but the experience lingered long after it ended (I even saw the director Al Maysles filming, oddly enough this time, changing his perspective, on mini-DV as opposed to film). It's a lush setting, maybe too lush, and full of the kind of vibrancy and other things to describe it that would take too long or sound too pretentious in this review. Suffice to say if you remembered what it was like, or were there, Maysles gets a superb lot of interviews- some, of course, with Cristo and Jean-Claude his wife/business partner as he does for all of the Cristo art movies- with just people who are walking around the park, people who go there frequently, tourists, foreigners, workers. And the images are sublime; film might have captured it in the best possible way, but on digital there's another level brought out. All those waving flags of orange, put to the backdrop of snow and dead trees and Central Park fixtures and landmarks have a rough but beautiful, crystal-perfect quality. I loved seeing those images again, and with such a sharp eye and mind that knows where to go for the right (or simply unexpected) detail and make it personal and true to expressing the spirit of Cristo, whatever that might be (open to interpretation for absolute certainty).
The documentary plays now and again on HBO (it did for about a month or so early in 2008), but if you can somehow find it on DVD it's a worthwhile purchase. Very few works from Cristo reach this ambition and, in fact, sublime manner in execution.
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