Frederick Wiseman Retrospective

Hiroshima has an excellent Cinematographic Library which shows classic cinema throughout the year at very reasonable prices. It may be churlish to complain, but most of the films are either in Japanese without English subtitles, or “foreign” language films with Japanese subtitles.

Between February 22 and March 10, however, the library is screening a series of 15 classic documentary films directed by Frederick Wiseman. All but one of them are in English.

Frederick Wiseman has been described as “a true master of documentary film”. This retrospective starts on February 22 with the second film Wiseman directed, High School from 1968, which has been cited by the US Library of Congress as a National Treasure. Over the following two weeks films from every decade up to his most recent film but one, La danse – Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris from 2010.

Wiseman’s films are studies in human behavior. They are often set in institutional or regimented situations such as in a high school, a hospital, a police department, or in constrained settings such as in a zoo, a shop or in Central Park. In these everyday situations he tries to find the drama in ordinary experiences. The stripped down titles suggest his style of filmmaking; using a lightweight camera and portable sound equipment, Wiseman typically shoots hundreds of fly-on-the-wall footage, filming his subjects with a minimum of intrusion. There are no voiceovers, graphics, or even interviews.

Wiseman has said that this style, often described as Direct Cinema, does not necessarily result in films that capture and present “reality” to the viewer, and freely admits that he manipulates his source material to create a dramatic structure; indeed, even the process of which parts of the footage shot to include and which to leave on the cutting room floor is a form of manipulation. In this article on Salon.com, which discusses his film Domestic Violence, and in the video embedded below, Wiseman goes into some detail about his filmmaking process through and they are well worth taking a look at.

Wiseman says he feels, “an obligation to the people who are in [the film], to cut it so that it fairly represents what I felt was going on at the time, in the original event. I don’t try and cut it to meet the standards of a producer or a network or a television show.” It seems that it is his uncompromising dedication to making “movies” that are fair to those who feature in them is why Wiseman is so well respected.

Program of Films

2/22 High School 1968 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:30

 

2/23 Law and Order 1969 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:30

 

2/24 Hospital 1969 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:30

 

2/25 Canal Zone 1977 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 17:30

2/26 The Store 1983 (English with Japanese subtitles) 10:30, 14:00

2/28 Welfare 1975 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:00

2/29 Sinai Field Mission 1978 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:00

3/1    Model 1980 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:00

3/2    Racetrack 1985 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:00

3/3    Central Park 1989 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 17:30

3/4    Aspen 1991 (English with Japanese subtitles) 10:30, 14:00

3/7 Zoo 1993 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:00

3/8 Ballet 1995 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 17:30

3/9 Boxing Gym 2010 (English with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 18:30

 

3/10 La danse – Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris 2010 (French with Japanese subtitles) 14:00, 17:30

All the films are being shown at the Hiroshima City Cinematographic and Audio-Visual Library and price of admission is only ¥370 for adults and ¥180 for children.

Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and loves running in the mountains.

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