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.
A veritable cathedral of Western paintings, the National Gallery has been entrenched in London’s Trafalgar Square since 1838, with access to the sprawling facility convenient (and mostly free) for the public to whom it belongs. But while the art technically belongs to the museum’s visitors, the guests can’t take it with them—like many of the world’s most famous collections of fine art, the National Gallery doesn’t allow photography. That fact, in and of itself, is enough to make Frederick’s Wiseman’s unrestricted, nearly three-hour portrait of the place significant. But the ultimate value of the famed filmmaker’s latest documentary—a subject National Gallery turns into a reflexive concern—is not that Wiseman makes it possible for a broader audience to see these priceless works of art, but that the scope of his project invites all audiences to look at them through an illuminating new lens.
FULL REVIEW ON THE DISSOLVE: thedissolve.com/reviews/1184-national-gallery/
Wiseman still remains, for me, the greatest film editor to ever live. Unfortunately this flick is doomed to be a minor Wiseman because of its repeated depictions of prepared speeches and lectures, something no documentary audience should be subjected to.
EDIT: I wrote ^this^ right before the final ten minutes happened. The rating for the rest of the film still stands, but the ending gets five stars easily. Just watch those minutes if you can.
The perfect documentary to have in the background. Doubt it would hold my attention if I didn't have other things to do, but to listen and glance at, it's the tits.
In recent years I have gained increasing sympathy for films that just look, films that have an almost naïve faith that the photographic image will reflect the world. At first glance Frederick Wiseman's film about London's National Gallery fits my sympathies. It is a mass of scenes and impressions of the Gallery, the public galleries and the workings of teachers, administrators, academics and craftspeople. The camera watches without comment: we listen to people talk, can make up our own minds. But it isn't the sort of film I have gained a fascination for. There is something duplicitous about it. When the Lumiere brothers photographed workers leaving their factory there were, of course, editorial decisions about where the camera was going…
A quiet, humble and highly observant documentary that feels exactly like going to your local art gallery, fascinating but undeniably tiring.
I appreciate how the documentary offers a rare insight into almost every aspect of this gallery. From the impressionable children and public who stare at the canvases in wonder, amazement, confusion and boredom, passionate and articulate guides and educators, to the restorers who painstakingly clean and recover works and the corporate bosses at the head of it all. From the bottom up, everyone involved in this space is examined and observed with a genuine care and interest from the camera, and as a result, the viewer.
Art galleries for me have always been, and will continue to be, a…
Look, I only saw the last half hour of this epic-length doc due to running terribly, horribly late to meet a friend at Friday night's event, but of the comparatively little that I saw, it was marvelously alive with humor, sensitivity, and deference to the artworks (i.e. allowing them to fill an altogether other frame - Wiseman's frame). Also, the Q&A moderator was - in the words of my witty friend - a "goober." The perfect description. Behold, the following priceless exchange:
Mod: "Why make a film about an art gallery? What do you see in an art gallery?"
Frederick Wiseman: (incredulously) "Paintings!"
As observational documentaries go, Frederick Wiseman's "National Gallery" is pretty close to sublime. In typical Wiseman style there's no voice-over and no score; he simply places his cameras and his microphones inside the buildings and lets us see the paintings and hear the words spoken by the staff, at meetings or in discussing the art with the public. It lasts for three hours and if you love great art you just might have an orgasm watching the flow of masterpieces lovingly framed and spoken about. However, if art isn't quite your bag this might be the most boring film ever made.
At least Wiseman doesn't do it all in one continuous take, the way Sokurov did with "Russian Ark" whose…
This was my second Wiseman and I enjoy the way his film's slowly but surely make you find the right energy level. You get to immerse yourself in a room and try to contextualize who and what is in it. It becomes a unique kind of watching experience where you are detective, observer, cultural anthropologist all at once.
hard to go into a museum after watching this film and still think about art and the place itself in the same way; this doc is such an immersive experience exploring the many, many faces of this iconic museum.
Nunca llega a hacerte sentir nada pero es hipnotizante
Art History & Contemporary Art 1-92 | Graffiti 93-98 | Illustration 99-102 | Graphic Design 103-127 | Industrial Design…
My favourite documentaries and more