Jeanne-Claude and Christo were a married couple who created world-famous large scale environmental art installations. They have had more than one movie made about them, even more than one by the Maysles Brothers. However, in 2009, when Jeanne-Claude passed away from complications of a brain aneurysm, Christo went relatively quiet. That is until 2016 when he decided to bring an idea that he and Jeanne-Claude had when they were together in the ’70s called “Floating Piers.” The piers would lead from the mainland in Lake Iseo, Italy to a small island 3 kilometers from the lakeshore. There are no guardrails, and the point is that the spectator has the feeling of walking on water.
“The piers would lead from the mainland in Lake Iseo, Italy to a small island 3 kilometers from the lakeshore.”
We see this gargantuan task come together in a ridiculously short amount of time. There is a massive team constantly working some putting together floating carbines connected to anchors to form the piers, some sewing together 3 kilometers of gold fabric, and some dealing with Christo and the local governments, art buyers, and all sorts of other fun things/people. It is fascinating to see something so over the top come together, but not without a hitch. There’s quite a bit of bureaucratic red tape and failures from the local government with crowd control. Two hundred thousand people come on the first day. On the second day, a 6-year-old girl is separated from her mother.
It’s heartwarming to see Christo when the work is going well, due to the fact that this is something that he and his late wife worked on together. There are beautiful scenes of Christo inside the Sistine Chapel staring at the ceiling, and at the end developing ideas for a new project in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He is not stopping now that he’s started again, despite (or because of) being 84 years old, regardless of how much he has to go through to realize his projects. He is very tenacious and uncompromising, and that explains why he and his late wife created so many wildly inventive huge art installations in the past.
“…a no-holds-barred intimate portrait inside the big money art world, from the artist’s perspective.”
Walking on Water is a no-holds-barred intimate portrait inside the big money art world, from the artist’s perspective. Cristo pays for all his own works from the sale of his art, which is rare. We see the rich clamor over paintings of the Floating Piers and awkwardly hobnobbing with him at a party. However, Cristo seems relatively down to earth for being a world-famous artist, despite the fact that he does have an assistant who cuts his eyelashes for him (which, to me, is one of the most hilarious scenes in the film). He definitely appears to care more about the art than the money, which is a rarity once you start making a lot of the latter.
I can’t end this review without mentioning how beautiful the cinematography is. Additionally, the music by Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi is hypnotic and captivating and expresses the awe-inspiring nature of the impressive undertaking that is “Floating Piers.” Walking on Water is essential for any devotee of the arts, as this shows a project from fruition to dismantling, a full life cycle of an art installation if you will. I, for one, found it very fascinating.
Walking on Water (2019) Directed by Andrey M. Paunov. Starring Cristo.
7 out of 10 stars