Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a married couple who were well-known for creating massive works by altering the environment around them, often by wrapping a giant structure in plastic or introducing new foreign elements into an established setting. Their works were equally celebrated and ridiculed by the artistic elites and society at large. When Jeanne-Claude passed away from a brain aneurysm, Christo’s attempt to honour her came as a realization of a work they had planned together long ago, a work known as The Floating Piers, which saw a large floating dock placed across Lake Iseo in Italy. Walking on Water is a documentary which follows the artist as he attempts to make this concept a reality.
The issue that often makes “artist docs” so difficult to appreciate is the unavoidable sense of idol worship. Thankfully, Andrey Paounov’s doc does not give into that; showing Christo as he is today, warts and all. While Paounov is clearly a fan, there is no attempt made to hide that perhaps Christo is not as sharp as he used to be, or that he is a little short fused, or that he does not quite understand what it is to be human; these are all ultimately effects of partaking in an arts practice for so long and it is always commendable when they are put front and centre, alongside the frequent arguments and fights that come with an attempt to create.
The visual sensibilities of this doc are less spectacular, but that may surprisingly be a good thing. Christo’s works have never been about flash; he tends to be more concerned with functionality than aesthetics. As such, Walking on Water mostly consists of fly-on-the-wall-style imagery, unobtrusive and unstylized, allowing the work to speak for itself. Ultimately, this doc will say different things to different viewers, but very few of them will come out wanting their 100 minutes back.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam