Antonio Ferrea and Albert Maysles’ The Gates (2005) is ostensibly a documentary about the struggle of artists Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude to realize their project to install 7,500 arches or gates festooned with orange cloth in New York City’s Central Park—a project that took 25 years to pull off, thanks to the shortsightedness of several New York City mayors. That was righted in 2005 when Michael Bloomberg not only said yes, but expressed his inability to understand why the idea had ever met with resistance. (It is hard to understand, since “The Gates” would only stay up for 16 days and was never meant to be a permanent fixture.) The film is certainly a solid documentary of this and of the installation of the project. But it’s rather more than that in its overall depiction of the often strange resistance to art (however defined) by public officials, who seem to have little sense of what art is and perhaps even less sense of fun. I don’t see how a project like this can be described as anything but fun, even if the “gates” themselves force the viewer to look at the park anew by directing the eye toward specific points. It is nonetheless a playful creation. The film may be a little too full of itself on occasion—a little too sold on a need to be clever—but it more than justifies itself with the questions it raises and the extended look at the gates themselves and their oddly magical quality.
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