Presented by the Melbourne Cinémathèque & ACMI
8 July 2020
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After decades of capturing the essence of western society’s institutions, Frederick Wiseman shifts his democratic gaze to London’s National Gallery
One of cinema's Old Masters returns with this poetic and profound dissection of art and storytelling.
Frederick Wiseman’s patient and considered examination of the inner-workings of the National Gallery in London opens with a perfectly apt sequence: some of the gallery's most well-known works – a Van Gogh, a Rousseau, a Velázquez, two Titians – are juxtaposed with a cleaner carefully polishing the gallery floor.
Although the artworks are on show in all their glory, the camera seems more attracted to what’s happening around them: the stories, the interpretation, the meticulous restorations, and the people in front, behind and beside the works. The cleaner is one. A guide giving an exuberant interpretation of a painting to a group hanging off her every word is another.
Expansive, detailed and thoroughly revealing, Wiseman’s investigation is much more than a virtual excursion, and instead takes us on a deep dive into the DNA of a museum from troubling origin to essential future.
How to watch
Frederick Wiseman speaks about documentaries, National Gallery
Jason Di Rosso, ABC Radio National, 5 March 2015