Frederick Wiseman is one of the few film-makers working today that I genuinely admire. He started his long, sprawling career in the late 1960's, with one of his first documentaries, the daring and controversial "Titicut Follies". It was a grim, objective look into the cruel workings of a since-demolished Massachussetts mental asylum for the criminally insane. Patients are treated about as despicably as you can imagine, either sickly abused or disregarded by the doctors and staff.
Cut to 43 years later, and Wiseman's new documentary "Boxing Gym" . One of the reasons I admire Wiseman so much is that he's one of the most dedicated film-makers I can recall. He's remained loyal to a distinct formula or code of film-making, which he pioneered. This basically has him going every year to a new American building or institution, filming days and days of footage, before cutting it down into a lean, 2-6 hour documentary (which usually airs on PBS). He's captured a vast canvas of subjects and people, from ballet and dancer, to high school and students, to the zoo and its workers, to boxing and boxers
(pssssst-Jane's favorite Wiseman films "Ballet' and "Zoo". got em both on my IPOD dubbed from a college library VHS collection).
Fred doesn't direct people on what to say or do, he is merely a luminous presence that with his camera records the day-to-day workings of the given institution. Since there is very little manipulation of the images, many will argue it's simply "observational cinema" or "cinema verité", a label which Wiseman sincerely objects to as untrue, and for the latter, a "pompous French term". He's a director who does very little "directing", however it's his editing that marks his stance as a serious artist. It's where he gets to be creative, and input his own personal feelings.
Take for example a nauseating scene from 'Titicut Follies' in which a doctor is feeding a patient soup through a straw and funnel directly into his nostril. The patient appears brain-dead or severely drugged, but has trouble breathing during the grotesque ordeal, gagging several times. At one point, a big sliver of ash from the doctor's cigarette falls and lands in the funnel. This sequence is inter-cut with grim, somber shots of the patient, only days after, being prepared for his burial. It's a profound use of editing, Wiseman inter-cutting the scene with shots of the patients skinny dead body, as if to say modestly that the institution abused and killed him.
Pioneer documentary film-maker Frederick Wiseman, with a career spanning a little under half a century, has done a lot in all this time. He's captured America in a very un-manipulated and refreshingly honest way, which is certainly unique amongst cinema. Some of his documentaries can drag and become quite boring, but most of them are meant to be screened privately for a college or institution. They're difficult to find, but are usually available in University libraries (YEP), or occasionally broad-casted on PBS (Yep and DUB EM WHEN THEY PLAY).
p.s. i just finished watching this new film and was most astonished at the amount of female boxers out there in the world. YOUNG female boxers, ATHLETES! The film has many side conversations about the Virginia Tech shooting that was happening during filmming, and ironically no boxer could comprehend the violence humans can behold. It was a telling theme within the film, as it was the very first time in my life that I viewed, and acknowledged "boxing" as a healthy sport, and not an excuse for unecessary violence. I think it is an important sport now, and this thought exists solely due to the impact of Wiseman's film. Evidence of the power of cinema.
p.s.s. the film shows parents (men AND women) bring their newborns in "carseats" while they work out in the Boxing Gym. Wild passionate stuff.
BUT i (i.e. me, Jane, Joey) LOVES SYRACUSE ! i LOVE all of the socially relevant work being shown and spoken about! "DEFINING BEAUTY: Ms WHEELCHAIR AMERICA" blew me away. "Wretches and Jabberers" forever changed the way i understand how people understand far more than they appear to.
The Q and A was incredible. I love making movies. Michael Moore is spreading rumors that i am the next BIG thing. All i keep saying is, SHOW ME THE MONEY !
/> I designed tons of C.D. "AUDIOBOOKS" to accompany my novella/film.
I created them (DIY style) all on my own, mass photocopied them on available/found copy machines, cut/scissored up stuff/related media, and packaged the C.D.'s with activist documentation to support various organizations and to draw awareness to social matters within the contexts of my new work.
I will give these things away, as part of my mission statement.
I will make a habit of working this way.
I will have this as a "purpose".
Artwork meant as catharsis and larger scaled awareness.
Quite sometime since NYC saw this begin to happen again. Teens. Their dogs. Street mattresses. Whatz goin' on in "the bigger picture" of things. Wow. Kinda like lookin' at some old street shot when 42nd street was the place (NOT THE PLACE) to be. Did anyone say, "TRAVIS BICKLE"?
p.s. that was a crap cellfone shot that i took (Jane took) while takin a stroll down 4th street. And i am hoping they ain't sleeping outside waiting for my upcoming FALL film screenings. Actually,i take that back. Hopefully they are.
i honestly do not know HOW to blog anything about this film, "LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS".
i am still kinda- shell-shocked.
i never expected this movie to be a "film" (i.e. to be THAT good) .
Wow. the details to the birds, to flight, to sounds, to epic social conflict, this movie was unreal. i need to see it again. after the first 4 minutes i was lost inside its trance. within a few minutes you ARE an owl amongst owls....and it takes awhile to understand that. to get back into "our" reality as the homosapien.
devastating. Keira was terrifying. perfected sad contempt. makes you not want to donate any organs (even if your life depended on it) makes you question the validity of our own insignificant importance. choices...do we ever truly have any???
aesthetically beautiful/editing =tasteful/performances =excellent/conventional filmmaking with the plot as "experiment".
Essentially i see this film as a 2010 redoing of what "The Crying Game" did for audiences back in the days (enlightened/awakened people).
a must see. for Keira Knightly alone. TRUST ME (although you should never really trust too many people)....GO SEE THIS FILM
p.s. this Blog was written quickly at an East Village Internet Cafe. Speeding away. Only could afford 15 minutes for 3 bucks for internet usage....30 secs left... GOODBYE !!!!!!
Well i (me) did my interview with NPR public radio this week via telephone. interesting experience. sound check over a telephone is weird. reminds you (i.e. and ME) of speaking to somepne behind a glass booth window---ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT YOU CANNT SEE THE PERSON AND THEY DO NOT RESPOND TO YOU WHILE YOU SPEAK. But, that's 4 soundcheck. a series of questions and answers i was requested to do upon myself prior to the reporter beginning the ordeal. it was fun. i had prepared notes and scribble-scrabbles but used nothing i had prepared. This Writer shot from the hip. so yeah. i did a Public Radio Interview. FM radio. Will be broadcast mid-October. I will post the precise date when i learn it. and heck yes they will be playing some soundclips of my works.
very cool experience.
bye p.s. i have been watching much documentaries on the Khmer Rouge. unreal how recent and terrible that movement was. "ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE" was such a reminder of the power of documentary film to not just tell an unknown side-of-a-story, but also to motivate the public to seek further knowledge of how and why some things were permitted to happen. And why history keeps repeating itself Over and Over again. creepy.