American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Many people missed the point of "The Gates," those 7,500 frames flowing with orange curtains that were installed along the pathways of Central Park in 2005. The point was not to look at them, but to use them, to walk through them and under them. One New York park board member, opposed to the proposal by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, said the addition of "The Gates" to the park "would be like Picasso painting 'Guernica' on top of 'The Last Supper,' " demonstrating that he did not grasp the difference between a painting and a frame. He might have saved himself embarrassment by consulting A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, the most important architect alive, who would have had something to say about gates, entrances, exits, doors, portals and views.
Entrances have everything to do with what we feel about what we are entering. All buildings until the birth of modern architecture knew this, and you can see it in church doors, temple gates, city walls, shop entrances and cottage doorsteps. Now the doors of a modern building are likely to be a continuation of the same hostile slab of glass or steel that makes the rest of the building sterile and aloof. There will be no place to rest for a moment, inside or out, and no shelf to rest a burden on, and no decorative details to declare, "This is not just any place you are entering, but this honorable place." I believe even criminals feel differently about the judges they encounter inside an old courthouse than inside a new one.
My wife and I walked under "The Gates" and beneath the curtains. Thousands of others were doing the same. Many of them no doubt made the same journey daily, scarcely thinking of it.
Certainly our walk was enriched by trees, grass, shrubbery, ponds, views. But now "The Gates," by framing those sights, gave them a new aspect and importance. Not "grass on a hill," but this view of a grassy hill. Not a pond, but look at the pond. A frame of any sort values what it encloses. And as we walked, we felt subtly ceremonial. We were not walking, but walking through the gates. People walked a little more slowly, and sometimes had little smiles, and talked less on their cell phones, and perhaps felt more there.