Thursday, 3 April 2008

Fred Wiseman

Time for Wiseman

Technological changes in the sixties led to the introduction of lightweight portable
16 mm cameras , the new technology changing the nature of documentary filmmaking.

Cinema Verite minimised voiceover commentary and non-diegestic music. The style and form appeared observational but in fact a film would be culled from days of footage, the selection of shots having deliberate intended effects on the audience.

One of the key exponents of the new style Cimema Verite ( Cinema Truth)
was Fred Wiseman .In the case of Wisemans’ High School 80 minutes of film was selected from 40 hours of footage. On the surface the film looks like a slice of High school life, but through the use of long shots, editing, extensive dialogue, close ups, conflict, and an absence of continuity, a representation is made of power and conformity to that power by students and parents. And “ No one in power loses an argument” to quote Wiseman.

Regimentation of school life is conveyed through association or montage techniques.
The power of both content and form saw Wisemans’ first film Titticut Follies about
the criminally insane at a Massachussettes Institute banned from 1967 until 1991.

Wiseman destroyed stereotypes , and combined tenderness , brutality ,apathy
dedication of purpose and integrity in a way that other Cinema Verite filmmakers struggled to match. To watch a Wiseman film is to go through a real experience. His main films in addition to High School were Hospital 1970 and Near Death 1969. Other must see Cinema Verite films include Salesman 1969, Gimme Shelter 1970, Primary 1960 Grey Gardens 1973 and Don’t Look Back in 1965.

Peter Burton

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