- 2hr 23m
- 2hr 23m
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In the realm of documentary films, as in the news media, polemicists are ascendant, but Frederick Wiseman isn’t one of them. For the past half-century, since his first film, “Titicut Follies,” he’s been an observationist. Not an observer, which carries a passive connotation, but a filmmaker who’s made a distinguished career of observing in a particular way — closely, calmly, shrewdly and systematically, with an eye to the institutions and social structures that shape and reveal people’s lives.
In its austere way, this is classic Wiseman, a film that takes us into the heart of a community and reveals its inner workings, comforts, fractures and traumas. It’s also a fine example of the way the director sculpts and moulds his material to create an arc that is both dramatic and poetic.
The film has its resonant moments, notably a wedding and a funeral. But it is by no means the jewel in the crown of a series that most recently has included electrifying docs like At Berkeley, In Jackson Heights and Ex Libris: The New York Public Library.