The Complete Works of Frederick Wiseman Pt. 1 (1967 - 1976)

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s career, Cinefamily is honored to present this master of cinéma verité’s complete works, with a four-year retrospective. The 43 film series commences with the first quarter of Wiseman’s filmography (ten films made between 1967-1976), including three newly restored 35mm prints (Titicut Follies, High School, Hospital) in their Los Angeles premieres.

 

“Wiseman, who studied law and was a law-school professor, doesn’t so much film institutions as discover them. He goes to a place of concentrated and focused activity—a hospital, a school, a public-assistance office, a business, a university, even an entire neighborhood—and manages to reveal the abstractions, the rules and the exercise and negotiation of power, behind the surfaces of daily life.” –Richard Brody for the New Yorker

 

“[Frederick Wiseman is] probably the most sophisticated intelligence to enter the documentary field in years.” –Pauline Kael on High School

 

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Click on movie title to jump to event listing, click showtime to jump to Buy Tickets:
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Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration w/ Frederick Wiseman in person!) – Saturday, August 27: 7:00pm
Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration!) – Sunday, August 28th: 4:00pm, Monday, August 29th: 7:30pm, Tuesday, August 30th: 7:30pm, Wednesday, August 31st: 7:30pm
High School (35mm Restoration!) – Friday, September 2nd: 7:30pm, Saturday, September 3rd: 3:00pm, Monday, September 5th: 10:15pm, Wednesday, September 7th: 7:30pm
Law and Order – Saturday, September 10th: 5:00pm
Hospital (35mm Restoration!) – Friday, September 16th: 7:30pm
Basic Training – Saturday, September 24th: 4:00pm
Essene – Saturday, October 1st: 4:00pm
Juvenile Court – Saturday, October 8th: 4:00pm
Primate – Saturday, October 15th: 4:00pm
Welfare – Saturday, October 22nd: 4:00pm
Meat – Saturday, October 29th: 4:00pm

Meat

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10/29/2016 - 4PM

Much like his earlier High School, Frederick Wiseman’s Meat is essentially concerned with the dehumanizing forces within particular North American institutions. On the surface, Meat is simply its title, but digging a bit deeper reveals a film concerned with the death of the Old West and a look at the myth of masculinity’s role in the workplace—punctuated by quiet moments of reprieve tinged in surrealism and brutality, like a goat leading a flock of sheep to their demise or a circle of steer heads on a line of hooks. Following industrial production from livestock to grocery store, the business side of meat manufacturing, and workers’ struggles and budget concerns—with inevitably stomach-turning footage of the process of transforming an animal from a living thing into a product—Wiseman locks his gaze on the simultaneously visceral and exhaustive process.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1976, 16mm, 112 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Welfare

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10/22/2016 - 4PM

Welfare sees Frederick Wiseman’s steadfast gaze focus in on the operations of a single Manhattan government assistance office, right in the thick of the notoriously hard times that characterized New York City in the 1970s. When the needy (many desperately so) who line up in the early hours of the morning finally get a chance to speak with a government worker, a seemingly infinite maze of regulations comes into focus. Wiseman’s camera situates itself at the interface point between the office’s employees and visitors, attending to painfully drawn-out conversations that attempt to translate basic needs into line items–a Sisyphean task that often seems to reach no resolutions–as both parties become more deeply mired in the system’s bureaucracy.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1975, 16mm, 167 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Primate

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10/15/2016 - 4PM

Wiseman’s visit to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center is a meticulous study of the processes used to test and document the behavior of various apes, including orangutans, chimps, and gorillas. Equal parts interspecies anthropological study and a slow-cooking horror-show, you’re just as likely to smile at nurses giving baby chimps little milk bottles and changing their diapers as you are to gasp at the harvesting of a gibbon’s brain. Wiseman balances long takes of surgery and observation with quick close-ups of the various instruments and machines used, representing increasingly experimental (think mad-scientist) procedures in excruciating detail, without sacrificing the sense of elapsed time.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1974, 16mm, 105 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Juvenile Court

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10/8/2016 - 4PM

An attentive and non-judgemental look at the youth courts system in Memphis, Juvenile Court showcases Wiseman’s inimitable observational abilities. Dealing with cases concerning everything from armed robbery and sexual assault to drug addiction, abuse, and foster care, Wiseman approaches each moment with his trademark respect for his chosen subject. Imbued with remarkably instinctual cinematography, rife with poignant imagery–a piece of tissue sticking to a young girl’s eye as she attempts to wipe the tears away, a badly burned young boy’s pained whisper as he tries to answer sensitive questions–and expertly crafted, Juvenile Court is a captivating document of the devastatingly human turmoil and confusion that finds its home in the supposedly ordered courtroom.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1973, 16mm, 144 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Essene

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10/1/2016 - 4PM

Named after the ascetic community purported to have scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls, Essene finds Wiseman immersed in a Benedictine monastery in rural Michigan, whose members struggle to reconcile their individual idiosyncrasies with the community’s collective needs. He films the brethren in prayer, at study, holding mass, and maintaining the grounds, granted access even to private counseling sessions. In a departure from earlier works, he returns to a few subjects, allowing them to become characters in their own right, including one monk on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Wiseman’s presence is all but invisible here, including one virtuosic 360-degree handheld shot around the abbot in the middle of a mass service.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1972, 16mm, 86 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Basic Training

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9/24/2016 - 4PM

As dozens of plainclothes youth, their hair still long and their blue-jeaned gait still casual, stream out of a bus and into an unmarked building, we are invited to take part in Basic Training, Frederick Wiseman’s immersive portrait of the nine weeks of Army training camp that each new enlisted and drafted recruit must endure. Intense discussions on the ethics of combat precede automatic weapons training, the severity of this message somewhat undone by the ridiculous moral tales in their marching cadences, and a moment of levity during a dental hygiene video. Embedded deeply within the rank-and-file at Fort Knox, Wiseman’s observant camera follows each detail and process as new intakes learn the proper way to scrub a urinal, sergeants hammer through marching drills, and the highest-ranking officers deliver motivational speeches to the impressionable minds that stare a potential Vietnam deployment squarely in the face.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1971, 16mm, 80 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Hospital (35mm Restoration!)

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9/16/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

In pre-HIPAA 1970, inside the four walls of the Metropolitan Hospital in New York’s East Harlem, Frederick Wiseman made a film that depended on a degree of access to doctors and patients that is unfathomable today. We see overtaxed doctors handle everything from stoned hippies to neglected children to alcoholics–lots of alcoholics. Wiseman’s attentive gaze never leans on simplification, even as he stares stereotypes in the face. Doctors aren’t villains–they’re flawed and overworked, and sometimes they go the extra mile for their patients while other times they discuss lunch alongside deep suffering. The alcoholics and druggies and various other oft-underprivileged patients that burst through the ER doors aren’t villains either– they are people at the mercy of a limited institution for care. This newly restored 35mm print is an invitation into the bowels of a place where the American movie-going public will likely never be invited again.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1970, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Law and Order

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9/10/2016 - 5PM

Watching Law & Order, one feels almost as if the black and white 16mm film is the only signifier of time having passed; Wiseman’s attention to the structures of law enforcement and their interaction with race and class seems not to have aged one bit, even 47 years later. The made-for-TV, Emmy-winning doc (best news documentary in 1969) is the filmmaker’s foray into the riots-era Kansas City, MO police department of 1968. As his camera roves, it captures myriad situations that officers are called upon to resolve – some appropriately within their jurisdiction, and others seemingly dumped upon them because civilians didn’t know where else to turn; one such a case is a domestic dispute over child-custody which results in the officer telling the child’s father that he simply must hire a lawyer if anything’s to be done. Wiseman’s hard look at the relations between officers and civilians is sympathetic and genuine, attuned to the limitations of the staid categories of law and order, and the humanity and chaos that spill out of them.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1969, 16mm, 81 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

High School (35mm Restoration!)

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9/7/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The eternally youthful vibes of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” guide us through establishing shots of suburban Philadelphia and onto the campus of Northeast High School, the setting for Wiseman’s sophomore filmmaking effort. From the hip-as-heck teacher who asks her students to tune into the poetry of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” to the brutal body politics of a homegrown fashion show, High School captures a day-in-the-life of the students and faculty at an upper-middle-class establishment, wandering from homeroom to the gymnasium to capture—with always-impeccable framing—the microdramas inherent in this most American of institutions.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968, 35mm, 75 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

High School (35mm Restoration!)

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9/5/2016 - 10:15PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The eternally youthful vibes of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” guide us through establishing shots of suburban Philadelphia and onto the campus of Northeast High School, the setting for Wiseman’s sophomore filmmaking effort. From the hip-as-heck teacher who asks her students to tune into the poetry of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” to the brutal body politics of a homegrown fashion show, High School captures a day-in-the-life of the students and faculty at an upper-middle-class establishment, wandering from homeroom to the gymnasium to capture—with always-impeccable framing—the microdramas inherent in this most American of institutions.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968, 35mm, 75 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

High School (35mm Restoration!)

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9/3/2016 - 3PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The eternally youthful vibes of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” guide us through establishing shots of suburban Philadelphia and onto the campus of Northeast High School, the setting for Wiseman’s sophomore filmmaking effort. From the hip-as-heck teacher who asks her students to tune into the poetry of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” to the brutal body politics of a homegrown fashion show, High School captures a day-in-the-life of the students and faculty at an upper-middle-class establishment, wandering from homeroom to the gymnasium to capture—with always-impeccable framing—the microdramas inherent in this most American of institutions.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968, 35mm, 75 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

High School (35mm Restoration!)

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9/2/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The eternally youthful vibes of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” guide us through establishing shots of suburban Philadelphia and onto the campus of Northeast High School, the setting for Wiseman’s sophomore filmmaking effort. From the hip-as-heck teacher who asks her students to tune into the poetry of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation” to the brutal body politics of a homegrown fashion show, High School captures a day-in-the-life of the students and faculty at an upper-middle-class establishment, wandering from homeroom to the gymnasium to capture—with always-impeccable framing—the microdramas inherent in this most American of institutions.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1968, 35mm, 75 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration!)

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8/31/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first feature-length effort by lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, Titicut Follies is a cinéma-vérité portrait of the appalling patient conditions inside Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a correctional institution in Massachusetts. Over the course of 29 days–what would become the typical amount of time for the filmmaker to spend in each of the American institutions he depicted over the course of his 50 years of filmmaking–Wiseman and his synchronized-sound 16mm camera unflinchingly capture the unsanitary living environment and basic human rights violations nakedly unfolding before him. Banned upon its 1967 release due to questions of ethics and patients’ rights, Titicut never shies away from the painful, harsh realities of existence inside a mental institution, marking newcomer Wiseman almost instantly as the quintessential observational filmmaker of contemporary institutional life in America.

Dir Frederick Wiseman, 1967, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration!)

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8/30/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first feature-length effort by lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, Titicut Follies is a cinéma-vérité portrait of the appalling patient conditions inside Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a correctional institution in Massachusetts. Over the course of 29 days–what would become the typical amount of time for the filmmaker to spend in each of the American institutions he depicted over the course of his 50 years of filmmaking–Wiseman and his synchronized-sound 16mm camera unflinchingly capture the unsanitary living environment and basic human rights violations nakedly unfolding before him. Banned upon its 1967 release due to questions of ethics and patients’ rights, Titicut never shies away from the painful, harsh realities of existence inside a mental institution, marking newcomer Wiseman almost instantly as the quintessential observational filmmaker of contemporary institutional life in America.

Dir Frederick Wiseman, 1967, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration!)

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8/29/2016 - 7:30PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first feature-length effort by lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, Titicut Follies is a cinéma-vérité portrait of the appalling patient conditions inside Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a correctional institution in Massachusetts. Over the course of 29 days–what would become the typical amount of time for the filmmaker to spend in each of the American institutions he depicted over the course of his 50 years of filmmaking–Wiseman and his synchronized-sound 16mm camera unflinchingly capture the unsanitary living environment and basic human rights violations nakedly unfolding before him. Banned upon its 1967 release due to questions of ethics and patients’ rights, Titicut never shies away from the painful, harsh realities of existence inside a mental institution, marking newcomer Wiseman almost instantly as the quintessential observational filmmaker of contemporary institutional life in America.

Dir Frederick Wiseman, 1967, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration!)

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8/28/2016 - 4PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first feature-length effort by lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, Titicut Follies is a cinéma-vérité portrait of the appalling patient conditions inside Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a correctional institution in Massachusetts. Over the course of 29 days–what would become the typical amount of time for the filmmaker to spend in each of the American institutions he depicted over the course of his 50 years of filmmaking–Wiseman and his synchronized-sound 16mm camera unflinchingly capture the unsanitary living environment and basic human rights violations nakedly unfolding before him. Banned upon its 1967 release due to questions of ethics and patients’ rights, Titicut never shies away from the painful, harsh realities of existence inside a mental institution, marking newcomer Wiseman almost instantly as the quintessential observational filmmaker of contemporary institutional life in America.

Dir Frederick Wiseman, 1967, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Titicut Follies (35mm Restoration w/ Frederick Wiseman in person!)

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8/27/2016 - 7PM

35mm Restoration courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first feature-length effort by lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, Titicut Follies is a cinéma-vérité portrait of the appalling patient conditions inside Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a correctional institution in Massachusetts. Over the course of 29 days–what would become the typical amount of time for the filmmaker to spend in each of the American institutions he depicted over the course of his 50 years of filmmaking–Wiseman and his synchronized-sound 16mm camera unflinchingly capture the unsanitary living environment and basic human rights violations nakedly unfolding before him. Banned upon its 1967 release due to questions of ethics and patients’ rights, Titicut never shies away from the painful, harsh realities of existence inside a mental institution, marking newcomer Wiseman almost instantly as the quintessential observational filmmaker of contemporary institutional life in America.

Dir Frederick Wiseman, 1967, 35mm, 84 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Frederick Wiseman Master Class (Off-site at The Vista)

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8/25/2016 - 7:30PM

This event will take place off-site, at The Vista (4473 Sunset Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027).

As we embark on the first installment of our four-year complete retrospective of Frederick Wiseman’s work, the filmmaker will join us IN PERSON for a master class. With a filmography spanning four decades, Wiseman is among the greatest living documentary filmmakers. His films are renowned documents of American institutions — a hospital, a high school, a welfare center — and an incredible record of the post-war Western world. But, in his words, “documentaries, like theatre pieces, novels or poems are forms of fiction.” With this in mind, Wiseman will discuss his process and films alongside excerpts from his work, in this rare opportunity to interface with the man behind the curtain.

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