Posts Tagged ‘Frederick Wiseman’
November 4, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- The French artist Sophie Calle’s Suite Vénitienne, first published in 1983, is back in print. If you or I made a book about stalking and photographing a complete stranger, we would be cast out of our communities; when Sophie Calle makes one, it’s a minor masterwork. In 1980, she saw a man on the street and tried to photograph him—he eluded her. That night, she ran into him at a party. His name was Henri B., and he told her he was going to Venice. She decided to go, too. In Suite Vénetienne, “Calle spends thirteen days looking for and trailing Henri B. around the city … at last, she finds [him]—he’s been staying in a pensione a hundred meters from her own. She stands outside his hotel and watches as he comes and goes … The strength of the project comes from the interplay between Calle’s physical pursuit and her emotional remove. Calle doesn’t care for Henri B ... Yet proximity to her subject seems to create a kind of attachment. Calle dreams of Henri B., he ‘consumes’ her. She has high expectations of their encounters, then worries about displeasing him. They meet. She frets it was banal. She tries to rent his former hotel room. She envisions herself sleeping in his bed.”
- Beneath the chapel in St. Leonard’s Church in Worcestershire is a single skull, just one, lonely skull. Scuttlebutt has it that someone stole this little guy from Shakespeare’s tomb back in the eighteenth century. But we may never know if this skull is Shakespeare’s. And I don’t mean that rhetorically—we will actually probably never know, because the Church of England doesn’t want any DNA testing on the skull. In a seven-thousand word statement, some stuffed-shirt barrister guy “sided with prominent Shakespeare scholars who have rubbished the claims and concluded they read ‘like a piece of Gothic fiction’ … He said he had seen ‘no scholarly or other evidence that comes anywhere near providing any support for the truth of the story” and that there was “nothing whatsoever to link it to William Shakespeare.’”
- Later today we’ll share some exciting news about Lydia Davis. But first, in the name of public service, some not-so-exciting news. A copy of Davis’s Collected Stories—a copy from the NYU Library, no less—has gone missing. It was last spotted in North Brooklyn, outside Tony’s Pizza at Dekalb and Knickerbocker, near the B38 bus stop. Have you seen this book? Its cover is handsome, its spine thick, its borrower concerned.
- Today in comic-book news you didn’t know you cared about: two parodic, dystopian episodes of Judge Dredd are back in print. The comics, from 1978, depict a postnuclear America in which commercial culture has run amok, and they made lawyers squeamish: “In Burger Wars, Dredd finds a devastated middle America in thrall to the warring Burger Lords, modeled on Ronald McDonald and Burger King’s eponymous monarch, who capture the heroes and force them to live on burgers and shakes. In Soul Food, a Dr. Moreau–style genetic engineer living in the blasted wasteland has created mutated creatures based on mascots of American retail culture including the Jolly Green Giant and Michelin’s tire-man Bibendum … Ben Smith, head of books and comic books at Rebellion Publishing, said: ‘The most common question we have been asked at conventions over the years is “Will you be reprinting Burger Wars?” It’s a delight, and frankly a relief, to be able to finally say, Yes!’ ”
- Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary, In Jackson Heights, is (really!) a riveting three-hour testament to a neighborhood’s civic life. “What Wiseman found in Jackson Heights is people talking, mainly in organized, formalized settings that have their pretext and their agenda defined. He finds civic life taking place in public and quasi-public places—houses of worship, stores, storefront offices of non-profit community organizations, and local governmental offices … The discussions that he films involve such matters as fair labor practices, gentrification, the legal ramifications of urban gardening, the push for change in traffic-safety regulations, school redistricting, police harassment of gay and transgender bar patrons, fear of deportation, citizenship-test study, and the laws and norms to pass a taxi-driver test. In other words, the movie is about the very stuff of life … The problems that Wiseman finds are local, practical, intimate, but the emotions that he films are grand and tragic.”
December 3, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
February 28, 2011 | by Errol Morris
Fred Wiseman has been my idol for a long time. In the 1970s it wasn’t all that easy to see his films. For a while I had seen only Basic Training (1971) and High School (1968). Nothing else. Titicut Follies (1967) was almost impossible to see because it was under a court injunction. Videocassettes had been introduced, but Wiseman’s films existed only on 16mm—ready to be slapped onto a projector or viewed on a flatbed. Until very recently, he was reluctant to transfer his films to DVD. I believe it was because that would have made them too easy to be seen.
When I was editing my first film, I visited Fred Wiseman in Boston. His offices in those days were on Lewis Wharf, and he very kindly allowed me to watch several of his films on a Steenbeck editing machine. At dinner in his home, one of his sons asked him whether he was going to show me “the two-hour, the three-hour, or the four-hour boring film.” Fred didn’t smile. But honestly, I had no problem with the length. For me, they could have been even longer.
I saw Fred again at the London Film Festival in 1978. He was showing Sinai Field Mission. My future wife, Julia Sheehan, and I went to the first screening at the National Film Theatre. Julia, also a Wiseman fan, had just gotten off an all-night flight from Boston, and promptly fell asleep next to Fred. She was mortified. I remember being mesmerized by the film and its “language.”
The cinder block buildings, the microwave dishes, and the injunction: to stop sunbathing on the modules. If Surrealist painters had to conjure an empty, featureless plain with pieces of driftwood, Wiseman was able to do away with the driftwood, the conjuring, and simply point the camera at reality. The results are disarming and even dismaying.