5 Films About Christo and Jeanne-Claude - A Maysles Films Production
DVD | Box Set
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Five Films about Christo and Jeanne-Claude chronicles a 30-year collaboration between acclaimed documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Salesman, Grey Gardens), and the internationally renowned environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Maysles brothers along with such frequent co-filmmakers as Charlotte Zwerin and Susan Froemke, have captured the artists enduring relationship and the grandeur of their large scale temporary public works. The series of award-winning films stands as a permanent document of the process, the political drama, the emotional investment and the transforming effect the finished works have on all those who come in contact with them.
As David Maysles said, "Christo comes up with an idea that at first seems impossible, then lets it grow; so do we." Albert Maysles agrees: "Both Christo's projects and our films are outrageous acts of faith."
After you've seen 5 Films About Christo & Jeanne-Claude, your appreciation for art and artists will be permanently enlightened. Spanning three decades of unique collaboration between controversial public-art creator Christo, his creative partner and wife Jeanne-Claude, and cinema verité pioneers David and Albert Maysles (Salesman, Grey Gardens, and many other award-winning films), this DVD set of five captivating, unscripted documentaries is a living chronicle of art as a public challenge, inviting the viewer to witness the creation and installation of temporary artworks that triumphantly illustrate (as noted by Salon.com essayist Charles Taylor) "the collision between art and everyday life." Whether they are raising a massive "Valley Curtain" of vibrant orange nylon across a Colorado mountain range; a 24-mile "Running Fence" in Northern California; surrounding islands in Florida with gigantic rings of hot-pink fabric; or simultaneously erecting a total of 3,100 huge umbrellas across rolling landscapes in Japan and California, the Christos (who self-finance all of their expensive installations) are both deliriously self-indulgent and open-heartedly generous about their work and the impressive engineering that goes into creating it.
For these and other time-consuming but fleetingly visible endowments of beauty on an epic scale, the Maysles were there with camera and microphone, capturing the impact, controversy, humor, and ultimate glory of Christo's wondrous vision. Accompanied by an engaging 2004 interview between Christo, Jeanne-Claude, and Albert Maysles (David died in 1987), and an 80-page booklet including Taylor's excellent essay and detailed statistics on each of the featured projects, 5 Films is a timeless testament to Christo's assertion that "all of our art is about freedom." It comes as no surprise, then, that the experience of viewing these inspiring films is so joyously liberating. --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
- Disc One:
- Christo's Valley Curtain (1974)
- Running Fence (1978)
- Disc Two:
- Islands (1986)
- Christo in Paris (1990)
- Disc Three:
- Umbrellas (1995)
- Interview with Albert Maysles, Christo and Jeanne-Claude (2004)
- Audio Commentary on all Five Films with Albert Maysles, Christo and Jeanne-Claude
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But with Christo's works, it definitely is the process that matters. Yes, the end results are sometimes rather pretty, graceful, and above all startling, but it's what Christo and Jeanne-Claude and their teams DO, the doing that counts. I have to disagree with other reviewers who find the artists' commentary the most important element here; on the contrary, I believe that what's most important is all the convincing, battling, etc. of city councils, governments of countries and other bureaucracies; that, and the public debates, rants, conversations and so on that go on during the draping, floating, etc. How many artists in history have accomplished such things?!
Then all the fun ends after two weeks and the works disappear, which is just as well, because as Peter Schjeldahl has pointed out, they tend to become boring pretty soon. But anyway, all that is what makes these films so wonderfully important. We can watch and enjoy a lot of the process. And along the way, we can learn a great deal, for instance that Christo came to the West without a cent but soon married a rich heiress, that the two of them are as narcissistic a pair as you're ever likely to meet, and other titillating bits of gossip.
These films are well worth seeing, and I'm glad I bought my copies before the prices went through the roof.
I have only seen the Valley Curtain and Running Fence films, but based on that I am ordering the set to keep. The films themselves of course are a little dated and not perfect transfers by any means, as they are older films made with older equipment and not a lot of effort was made to improve the video quality over the original material. But the original film work itself is very well done (even in sometime very challenging conditions) and the director did a great job capturing the essence of what it is to put up these projects that operate on such a large scale. The Running Fence one was especially good in this regard as it covered a number of public hearings and talks with the ranchers involved well before any construction showing people arguing against the projects.
However that is not the best part of these films. The best part is the commentary tracks which seem to have all been done in 2004 (sometime just before the Gates opened), and include Jeanne-Claude, Christo, and the film maker himself. All of them are very interesting and have a lot to say throughout the film, including a lot of information you'll not get from the films alone. As these were all pretty recent commentaries it also allows for much more interesting perspective in commentary as they can compare some aspects of these older works to more recent ones.
For anyone interested in the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, this is a must-watch set of films and will give you great insights into their thought process.
I will return to these videos for inspiration over and over again.
The commentary tracks are a perfect companion to the ephemeral, massive, wonderful works themselves.