Octogenarian Christo wraps up a miraculous career with a spectacular network of fabric walkways over an Italian lake, in an oft-humorous closeup look at the process of creation, clashes of egos and perils of nature.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2019
Christo and his wife/creative partner Jeanne-Claude have long stunned the world with their monumental artworks – wrapping the Reichstag in fabric, dotting giant umbrellas across California, festooning Central Park with gates. Now, with the passing of both Jeanne-Claude and his long-time documentarian Albert Maysles, Christo takes on his first major solo work, The Floating Piers, a giant orange fabric walkway across Italy’s Lake Iseo.
Working from 700 hours of footage shot by Christo’s team, Bulgarian director Andrey Paounov focuses on Christo’s relationship with his assistant/nephew/sparring partner Vladimir, and spirited shouting matches between the two provide many of the film’s laugh-out-loud moments (along with the 20th-century artist trying to come to terms with 21st-century technology and selfie culture). As with any Christo project, the monumental construction feat is only half the battle. While the film stays relentlessly present tense, the fatal accident during his Umbrellas installation will resonate in some viewers’ minds. Throughout, Christo remains feisty as ever, and while Paounov refuses to mine pathos, the artist’s constant evocations of his late partner provide a heartfelt testament to a life-long vision shared. — Doug Dillaman
“The rollicking documentary... takes us through the process of the execution of The Floating Piers, revealing the many obstacles in the way of Christo and his team (which is led by his combative assistant/nephew Vladimir, who has an unintentional command of the camera and should be cast in every film made in the future, fiction or nonfiction, stat)… [including] fights over construction materials, volatile weather, Brexit, and, in part due to local corruption, an overwhelming onslaught of visitors... But don’t worry about the weather: Christo is his own force of nature.” — Mark Peranson, Cinema Scope