When: Wed., Oct. 26, 7 p.m. 2011
Frederick Wiseman has been making documentaries since 1967, and right from the start he established an aesthetic from which he hasn't wavered. He chooses a location and sets up a shooting schedule, then edits the resulting footage (typically 100 hours or more) into an unembellished portrait: no score, no titles, no voice-over, no interviews. The shooting and editing choices alone create the story, a very direct (one is tempted to say "pure") method that emphasizes the drama of individual events.
"The movie is about the place, and what goes on in the place, not any one person at the place," Wiseman said in reference to his 38th film, 2009's La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, though the quote applies to all of his work. La Danse does have one especially memorable character, however: the iron-willed ballet director Brigitte Lefèvre, whose dealings with people show her to be a master of the Gallic lecturing tone.
Fans of dance will revel in the great quantity of sumptuous performance footage. And it's fascinating to watch the company in rehearsal, with middle-aged instructors whose movements are tremendously surer and more fluid than those of the young athletes they're training to take the stage. The free screening starts at 7 p.m. and runs 159 minutes, so go easy on the Evian beforehand. —Marc Maximov