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Tuesday, 01 February 2011 01:00

Boxing Gym

Boxing Gym nycfilmcritic.com
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

Veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman began crafting his unique films in 1967 with the controversial Titicut Follies about the criminally insane. Now in his 81st year, he continues to cast a fresh eye on the world with Boxing Gym which documents the diverse clientele training at the modest Lord's Gym in Austin, Texas.

Faithful to his approach, Wiseman asks no questions, presents no on-camera interviews, and provides no voiceover narration or interpretation. In fact, the subjects here and in all his films seem quite oblivious to the camera as their unselfconscious, natural actions testify. From the hundreds of hours of footage captured, Wiseman then constructs his film with a dramatic structure in mind, as he has often stated. He burrows into his world carefully and calmly, accumulating details that result in an insightful presentation.

Boxing Gym captures the often-surprising cross-section of individuals who frequent ex-professional boxer Richard Lord's establishment. They range from new mothers with their babies in basinets off to the side to teenagers and middle-aged businessmen. The also include men and women of various ethnic groups. Young and old, in-shape and fighting to get there, they all share a love of boxing and the demanding training absolutely required for staying in the ring.

Most impressive is the footwork, each boxer working hard to learn to move with rhythm and grace. In addition, men and women lift weights, do push ups, shadow box, work with heavy bags and speed bags, jump rope, and work through an array of drills and exercises while we eavesdrop on casual conversations. These off-handed exchanges reveal volumes about the speakers' personalities, as we do when we're relaxed with friends, not on stage, and just saying what comes to mind. The gym feels like such a safe, separate environment that it comes as a shock when talk of the Virginia Tech shooting intrudes so immersed have we become in this hermetically sealed world.

Boxing Gym offers a rare, quiet, observant take on a space most of us would walk past without a backward glance. Wiseman opens the doors, invites us in, and shows us what we've been missing. At Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 3rd through Sunday, February 6th. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487.

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