Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2007. Maysles Films. Cinematography by Antonio Ferrara, Albert Maysles, Karola Ritter. Produced by Antonio Ferrara, Maureen A. Ryan, Vladimir Yavachev. Film Editing by Antonio Ferrara, Matthew Prinzing.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude‘s completed projects always found their way to reality a long time after they were conceived, and one of the most delayed of them all was their Gates of Central Park, which saw them putting up almost 8,000 fabric gates in the magnificent green space situated in the centre of the island of Manhattan. Messing with Central Park has historically been, thankfully, a very difficult matter, it’s a place so well protected that Trump himself couldn’t build a tower in it, so it’s no surprise that Christo and Jeanne-Claude struggled from the early eighties to convince the people of New York City that their project intended no harm to their beloved land preserve. The fact that the couple spend their own money on their projects would, you’d assume, make it easier for them to accomplish their goals, but it almost raises more concerns, particularly in New York where the locals are sensitive about what they suspect are carpetbaggers coming to ruin the city the way they know it and love it. Through all the repetitive presentations and questions from combative interested parties, Christo maintains his cheerful sense of plucky optimism, then a quarter century after his first attempts, with the city under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, the project (whose cost is now twenty million dollars from the original five) is immediately approved. Christo’s dreams have no practical value for his critics, but the results often prove how profound an effect it has on a person to simply look at a familiar place in a new way: in the case of his Gates, we’re only talking about a series of arches decked with hanging fabric, and yet walking through them seems to provide a rapturous experience for the people doing it. Unlike the previous films made by the Maysles team, in which the two protagonists are followed in painstaking detail, the cameras leave the artistic couple behind once the Gates have opened, calmly observing the crowds as they enjoy the exhibit through all manner of weather for two full weeks. This was the last completed project on which both Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked before her death in 2009, and the last of the films that Maysles made on the couple.