The Gates

I love films. I especially love documentaries. Now I have a new favorite

documentary: THE GATES. From the first aerial view of Central Park in

New York City, it is obvious that the filmmaker has an eye for beauty.


The film follows the efforts of two lovelily eccentric artists, Christo and

Jean-Claude, to temporarily change the landscape of Central Park with

a characteristically enormous project: setting up thousands of large

structures from which hang orange curtain-gates. It begins in the

1970’s by showing various meetings with city officials and committees

and the accompanying dissent–and initial rejection–that ensued.

One could understand what was going on even without the dialogue

(which was often barely intelligible from the lips of Christo anyway).

The portraiture in the Maysles’ classic style of close-up (at times

ultra-close-up) shots perfectly captured what was going on in the

brains behind those faces.


The film skips ahead a couple of decades to 2003, when New York

City mayor Michael Bloomberg finally approves their audacious

request. The dissent continues, except that this time the outrage

is expressed by the regular people who frequent the park. You

begin to commiserate with their reaction that the park is being

violated. Despite the skepticism and outright anger of the people,

the project continues.


Then, there is a beautiful selah moment accompanied by the tenor

saxophone music of Pharoah Sanders. You begin to see that the

bright orange colors of the structures are not so unnatural after all.

There are gorgeous matutinal skyscapes/cityscapes of yellow and

orange. It is unveiling day, February 2005.


Suddenly, the grousing voices disappear. The onlookers are awe-

stricken. Skepticism turns to admiration. Scores of images of the

curtain-gates show the myriad ways they are beautiful. Moreover,

the beauty is reflected in the smiling faces of old and young. The

work of art gathers people together and makes them dance in

the quiet, simple grace. Christo and Jean-Claude are ecstatic,

ascending to apotheosis, perceived as magnanimous and

beneficent instead of as egoistic. They wind up as true exemplars

of persistence.


Still reeling from the joyfulness in my heart at the lyrical heights

of the film verite, I was privileged to be in an audience that was

graced by Albert Maysles himself. Before he even spoke a word,

I could already see the love and light emanating in his aura

and reflected on his masterly, smiling face. He recounted many

wonderful experiences and anecdotes of filmmaking through the

years, but one thing he said will always stick with me: “The

essential element in making films is love.” And he was not

talking about love of the art; he was talking about love for the

subject, the person one is documenting. That is why he is

a nonpareil in his field. He encourages us all to capture it, whether

or not it involves looking through a lens.



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I moved here in May after 32 years on the Arkansas/ Oklahoma border. I love this town and already feel quite at home here. There is an amazing vibration here, to which I am happily contributing. I am a tournament Scrabble player, so I was quite pleased to find a couple of other tourneygoers here, forming the core of an official Scrabble club that meets Sundays at the Heartsong Chai Hut.

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