LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Gates," which airs on HBO Tuesday, chronicles the 24-year struggle by experimental artists Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, to install more than 7,500 orange fabric-draped arches in Central Park.
The artists teamed with Albert Maysles to document their quest, seeing it as much a part of the project as the work of art itself. Little did they know the long, difficult road they would be forced to travel before New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved the project in 2003.
The Gates outdoor gallery enthralled the thousands who flocked to snowy Central Park during its 16 days of display in 2005. It proved to be as majestic as the controversial artists had promised and about five times as expensive as first envisioned: about $21 million rather than the $4 million-$5 million estimated in '79.
But Christo and his wife paid for it all themselves. Naysayers comments are juxtaposed in the film with the painstaking preparations, the wide-eyed reactions of those who see it up close and the endeavor's stirring interaction with the park itself.
Indeed, "The Gates" plays much of the time like a unique love poem to Manhattan and Central Park, insightfully capturing the oft-laborious ordeal of convincing a rigid and tunnel-visioned culture to think outside the box. That Christo and Jeanne-Claude finally are crowned as visionaries, rather than just a couple of heavily accented nut jobs, infuses the film with a spirited purpose that would otherwise have surely been lacking.