©1994, a film by Henry Corra, Grahame Weinbren, Albert Maysles,
16mm, color, 81 mins
Umbrellas takes a poignant, in-depth look at the concept
and realization of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's project,
Umbrellas: Joint Project for Japan and U.S.A presenting the
artist at his most triumphant and most vulnerable moments -
from the exaltation of the project's opening day through
unexpected tragedies at the end.
The artists chose sites with contrasting cultures, among
people who were unsophisticated about art; a rice-farming
valley in the Japanese province of lbaraki, 72 miles north
of Tokyo, and a cluster of cattle ranches in the rolling hills
of southern California, 60 miles north of Los Angeles.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude appealed to 29 land-owners in
California, and a total of 485 people in Japan. In October
1991, as planned, the 1,340 blue umbrellas unfurled in
the dense green foliage and rain-dripped autumn light of
the Japanese valley. On the opposite side of the Pacific
Ocean, the 1,760 yellow umbrellas burst open on dry,
golden-colored grass, glimmering in brilliant California
The film winds through the paddies and the pastures,
showing rice farmers and cattle ranchers reacting with
amusement, skepticism and intrigue - with weather
becoming a forceful project participant. Umbrellas
candidly presents the compelling personal reactions to a
tragic death at the California site. Later, during the removal
of the umbrellas, an electrical storm took the life of a
Japanese construction worker. Like life itself, Christo's art has,
in his own words, "a profound dimension of irrationality."
"Maysles' camera work shows that his astute eye is still strong,
Weinbren's editing is elegantly rhythmic, and Phillip Johnston's
original score, which ranges from blues to bounce to big beat,
is a strong plus."
- Howard Feinstein, VARIETY, March 1994
Grand Prize and People's Choice Award, Montreal Festival of
Films on Art.