Sunday, September 10


Word to the Wise

The other day I was wondering to myself about the current status of The Garden, Frederick Wiseman's long-in-the-making documentary on Madison Square Garden that was pulled from film festivals (and a PFA screening) in early 2005 due to legal threats from the owners of the Manhattan arena. Christopher Huber theorized in an issue of Cinemascope that the problem might have been a leeriness to let a Wiseman-style examination of a potential 2012 Olympic venue. Well, it's now been well over a year since New York lost its first-ever Olympic bid to London, and the city didn't try for the shortlist for 2016. So there must be something else going on.

Perhaps more of the story of the Garden and its unavailability will be disclosed on the Kanbar Hall stage September 20th, where Wiseman will give an interview using clips from his filmography in an event put on by the Documentary Film Institute. I'm certain it will be a highly illuminating event regardless. Based on having seen in full only four of his thirty-five films, I still consider Wiseman one of the most fascinating filmmakers alive. Some might say that pining over the inaccessibility of the Garden is foolish, considering how difficult it is to see any of his other films; he only makes them available to institutions and I've never seen one at a video store. But I did get to watch his career-launching Titicut Follies at the City College of San Francisco library Media Center when I took a course there (I only wish I'd also looked at La Comédie Française as well while my student card was still valid). And videocassettes of his discomforting 1987 look at the young guardians of the nation's nuclear arsenal Missile can be found in several public libraries in the Frisco Bay area. The SFPL has two copies, plus one of the Store, Wiseman's 1982 film about the Neiman Marcus corporate headquarters in Dallas that every capitalist or anti-capitalist ought to watch.

I took a documentary film class that screened High School, but I unwittingly skipped that session. And I've never had an opportunity since to see that film. This just might be my one regret in life...
That's one I've only seen clips from so far. My big Wiseman regret is that a huge retrospective of his work came through town a few years back and I only attended one double-bill: Missile and Primate.
My girlfriend got to see HIGH SCHOOL and LAW & ORDER at NYU a couple years ago and was enthralled. I hope to start (or join) some kind of film society at Berkeley when I return in January and get enough dough to rent a copy of at least one of his films for a screening. I don't know, maybe Berkeley owns a few prints...we shall see...
Please keep me in the loop about such a venture, Ryland!
Will do, no doubt. I'm sure the PFA owns at least one, actually, since their catalogue is something like 11,000 prints. Marilyn Fabe, the Film Studies Undergraduate Advisor, wrote in her book Closely Watched Films about how much she loves teaching film with the PFA as a tool to screen real prints for her courses. I can't wait. And they're building the new one soon, too, you know.
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