July 16, 2004

"Running Fence" and the law.

I'm two-fifths of the way through "Five Films About Christo and Jean-Claude," and I'm not going to wait until I've finished the whole set to write about how much I love these films by the Maysles brothers ... and how much I love Christo ... and Jean-Claude! And I'd like to put in a special recommendation for law people who may shy away from high art documentaries to take a look at least at the second film "Running Fence," which shows the artists trying to deal with local democracy. The regular folks announce their opinion that they don't think a 27 mile-long fabric fence is art, but why does it even matter if building the fence will pour millions into the local economy and will be taken down in two weeks? A suntanned old rancher explains to the seemingly sophisticated artists that the people around here (Marin County, California) don't know him, and the artist undertakes to get to know the locals, some of whom come to really love the art of the fence and some of whom just manage to get over their initial who-the-hell-does-he-think-he-is attitude. The environmentalists show up and oppose the part of the fence that extends into the ocean, and they get a restraining order, which Christo has to figure out whether to respect. At some point, you get the feeling that the art project is not just or perhaps not even the fence itself, but the local culture encountering and engaging with the fence. The legal system is part of the local culture that gets tangled up in 27 miles of fabric. A nice "law in action" movie.

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