By Mónica Delgado

Frederick Wiseman fixation for registering diverse institutional power mechanisms, above all, cultural and political (universities, hospitals, schools, stations, in America and Europe, focusing in hegemonic European centers as the Parisian Opera) is again picked up in National Gallery, a three hour inspection of the famous London museum. Wiseman stops not only in the registry of space, the rooms and routines of the workers, but also rummages in the possibilities of the institution as preservationist of the world’s memory and that remains in some way alien to the actual interest of the great audience (that also seeks to capture).

Wiseman disperses his film in three focal points: the description of the works by experts and museum guides, the contemplation of restoring work by a series of workers and the dialogues of the drivers of the place as to how to capture the attention of more audience, showing an agile mechanic of love for the arts, and also a routine that holds day by day.

As in previous works by Wiseman, the patient registry of the place appears to go beyond the mere expectancy of the heart of the museum, and unveiling the motor of such institutions, that have to also attach themselves to the likings of the spectators, like an exhibition by Leonardo da Vinci, for which long queues are made despite the cold.

The outstanding thing about National Gallery is the fascination that Wiseman transmits of the scholars that study the Works, who share their passion with the audience, fro, describing a work by Rembrandt or unveiling the magic of the technique in a painting by Turner (a pleasant coincidence after watching a Mike Leigh film about the painter in the official competition). In this way, Wiseman allow ourselves to get caught in this new discovery of the museum, from the relation of the watcher and the describer of the gaze, and goes beyond questioning or not any machinery for institutionalizing what is and has been art for all history. 

Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

Director: Frederick Wiseman
119 min