Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1994. Maysles Films. Cinematography by Robert Leacock, Don Lenzer, Albert Maysles, Richard Pearce, Robert Richman, Gary Steele. Produced by Henry Corra, Deborah Dickson. Music by Phillip Johnston. Film Editing by Sakae Ishikawa, Grahame Weinbren.
Two valleys in two different countries are the settings for Christo’s project to place giant umbrellas mirroring life from one place to the other: a stunning array of blue ones in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan and bright yellow ones in California. Four years after traveling to both places to inform the people of his plans, the work begins, and over three thousand giant, twenty-foot-high structures are erected with seemingly little political resistance in either location, the most ambitious project that Christo and Jeanne-Claude had yet attempted and among their most popular, with viewers in both locations moved to tears by the sight of these colourful blooms dotting the hills in the distance. With the grandeur of this project comes an increase in stress and anxiety from previous works, we see the couple argue with each other and with others more than we have in the previous Maysles films, and disaster strikes almost from the beginning. The rains in Japan delay the opening in both locations, forcing them to rush through one before hastily getting him on a plane to California to complete the other half, then with the American project opening in relative calm, storms rage in Japan and destroy a number of umbrellas before high winds arise in California and uproot an umbrella that kills a woman jogging by. All of Christo’s projects are temporary, his artwork is never left to rot from neglect, but this one began troubled and ended in an unhappy defeat, claiming a second life in Japan before closing after having been viewed by three million visitors. As always, surviving brother Albert Maysle and his collaborators film all events without ever feeling like they are manipulating events despite the fact that they are so expertly shaping their many hours of footage into a streamlined and cohesive plot.