The first 1012 films are from The 1,000 Greatest Films list, and maintain the original order. The films that follow…
A portrait of the day-to-day operations of the National Gallery of London, that reveals the role of the employees and the experiences of the Gallery's visitors. The film portrays the role of the curators and conservators; the education, scientific, and conservation departments; and the audience of all kinds of people who come to experience it.
Wake us when insufferably pompous institutions like this (in which caviar-stinking curators place art on a pedestal) are torn asunder by the hands of the proletariat, and art is restored to its rightful place in the streets. Whereupon the pertinacious Wiseman can make a film entitled THE STREETS, and please us thereby. Until then, we nap.
A few transitional sections focus on frame makers at work, and that may relate to the most important idea in National Gallery: the importance of framing/context and how this affects the creation, observation and interpretation of the artworks. Observation and imagination, the spiritual and the material, the immediate and the distant, the ephemeral and the eternal, and The National Gallery where all of these points converge. There's a popular sentiment that goes something like "you change, but the art stays the same," but what's reinforced over and over by Wiseman's subjects is that that's a bunch of baloney. Time, biological degradation, and the context both cultural and physical (as in the very space in which the art is displayed) all…
It's tempting to look at this in elegiac terms--an 80-plus-year-old filmmaker exploring an institution dedicated to preserving and teaching people about art, continuing vital conversations about centuries-old works and granting their creators a kind of immortality. And I suppose it's even quite effective on that level. But the scope here is utterly transfixing, moving from the gallery spaces themselves and the gaze of laypeople to the educational efforts of docents and scholars to the behind-the-scenes work on everything from budgets to how to light an installation. As a result, it somehow manages to be one of the most extraordinary experiences I can remember about the full range of art within the human experience: as a commodity, as a transcendent view…
The latest from Frederick Wiseman, National Gallery, about the British art museum of the same name. In a brisk three hours, Wiseman takes us on a tour of the place, following his now well-established structure: alternating long sequences of people at work, both "on-stage" (the tour guides, the restorers) and off (the frame-makers, the construction workers and janitorial crew) and administrative meetings where the war between commerce and art is fought, with breaks in-between made of "pillow shots", in this case usually close-ups of people looking at the art interspersed with close-ups of the faces in the art itself. He even manages to weasel in a couple of "interviews" wherein he films a person being interviewed, rather than having to…
VIFF FILM #1
a.k.a THE ACT OF LOOKING. Consistently digressive and yet still compelling, i.e. a Wiseman documentary. Fascinating when it explores art, restoration, viewership, artistic integrity, public consumption, and a myriad of other things within the context of the museum or gallery (e.g. context of the piece and the original framing or play of light). Less compelling when it simply becomes an art history lecture, which it frequently does. Played out like an actual museum, with my interest waxing and waning as it would in an actual art gallery. Still, as with most of Wiseman's oeuvre, worth watching if only for the singular experience of doing so.
Wish there was more on that restoration bit though--that seemingly tossed off line about how hundreds if not thousands of hours of restoration work placed on top of varnish are gone within minutes of the next iteration of cleaning seriously floored me.
Frederick Wiseman is my favorite living documentarian. His documentaries capture some of the most humane details of life and cover topics, places, and ideas that are rarely explored. Here, Wiseman covers the National Gallery of London. Wiseman doesn’t use narration. We explore the National Gallery through observation. We get to see what is inside the National Gallery. We see tour guides explaining a certain painting to their audience. Wiseman never focuses on anything. Most of his films have a theme to them. Here, he just drifts from one place to the next. Some of the people featured through the film are some of the most snobby, obnoxious people you will ever see. They act so superior to the other people…
Wonderful movie that allows itself time to breathe and us to really settle into that museum mood. Love how Wiseman balances all the different aspects of the museum business. Rewarding experience.
Film #21/Task #24
A film about "high" art.
I'm not entirely sure what I was looking for in this documentary. I enjoy museums, I like going to them, but there really wasn't enough material in here outside of what I would have seen in person to like this any more than I did. It was a nice stroll through the exhibits with a couple of peeks behind closed doors, which is fine, but nothing that wowed me.
Instead of being a fly-on-the-way documentary about an institution this felt like an extra long episode of Antiques Roadshow.
It's amazing that Fredrick Wiseman hasn't lost his touch. He's been working as a documentarian for one year shy of 50. His vision is just as clear as it was in Titicut Follies. He's a fly on the wall of the most interesting places. We see the people, the art, we hear art theory, we see everything this wonderful place has to offer. We see it for real. That's the beauty of Wiseman. He simply puts reality on display, and sometimes reality can be a bit dull.
At one point, a dance takes place, two human bodies folding and unfolding in impossible origami, in one small chamber of London's National Gallery, between two magnificent paintings. For me, they are a picture of the human spirit engaging the work of art — the woman striking statuesque poses, the man walking slow circles around her, transfixed, and then they entangle, her expressions ambiguous, her poses sometimes tortured and sometimes exalted, and he loves her, inquires of her, puzzles over her, lifts her, carries her, exalts her.
And this is what we observe for three hours, moving through the gallery — visitors studying and contemplating and asking and delighting in all manner of mysteries and expressions; art scholars postulating and…
As fascinating as it is, I think the film would have benefited from further editing...
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
("Wiseman; patient decoding, by both film viewers and gallery visitors")
it's been several months since i've seen this, and honestly it may have been 2014 when i saw this, i'm really really late at catching up on all my notes, for whatever personal reasons que sera it is what it is
so that to say, looking back on this movie after more than a year; i absolutely love wiseman, and i love london and i love the national gallery, and now that i work at the Getty Conservation Institute I might just might be curious to give this movie another try but honestly i did find this movie a bit boring
wiseman captures what he sees, how he experiences things and apparently how he experienced this museum was fascinating in parts but mostly kind of stultifying. Perhaps though I shouldn't speak for him. Only speaking for myself: I found this movie fascinating in parts but mostly kind of stultifying.
Frederick Wiseman has been on my radar for a couple years now, since At Berkeley found a lot of praise, but I hadn't quite managed to see one of his films yet. I'm very glad I finally have, I must say, much like Jody Lee Lipes with Ballet 422 last year he clearly is a man interested in the minutae of institutions I also find myself fascinated in, here the National Gallery in England. And when I say the minutae, I mean the minutae, everything from the most surface tours given there, the analysis of the art therein, the financial workings of the gallery, all the way down to the people who stick around at night restoring paintings and frames,…
A three-hour fly-on-the-wall documentary about an art gallery? I AM OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE. And, after 45 minutes of infuriatingly posh conversations and seemingly randomly-assembled slideshows of paintings, I'll admit I was tempted to give up on this. Due to the sheer lazy power of a rainy Sunday afternoon though, I hung on, and there's some really fascinating stuff in there... eventually.
Obviously Frederick Wiseman has a particular style - filming hours upon hours of footage in an institution, editing it down - which doesn't exactly fit the mould of the conventional documentary, and it does produce some interesting results. Any of the behind the scenes stuff that covers the hidden details of art restoration and conversation is fascinating,…
In 2007 Sight & Sound began compiling review/best of the year-lists which with the exception of the year 2008 have been…