There is no real insight into the National Gallery in Wiseman’s film and absolutely no eye for art. He takes three hours to deliver a massive puff for the museum’s staff, laced with patronising and uninterested glimpses of its public, and fails to communicate any of the infinite joys paintings can bring.
God it’s boring. I love the National Gallery and I was squirming in my seat. Why doesn’t Wiseman let the paintings speak for themselves? Again and again, he films audiences listening to curators or guides give lectures about the National Gallery’s works of art. One such talk would make sense in a portrait of the museum. But why repeat the exercise, again and again – and again?
The effect is crushingly elitist. This film sees the National Gallery from the management’s perspective. Members of the public are shown looking at art, and listening to the wise words of the experts, but where are our flighty, quirky, personal experiences and perceptions? It looks to me as if Wiseman has let the museum’s press officers tell him what to film. Since the National Gallery employs the least pushy press team around, this guy must be a remarkable pushover.
Or perhaps he was simply charmed by the place, and let it all wash over him. I have met many of the people in the film and share his respect for them. But surely if Wiseman’s theme is the institution, he should bring some scepticism and rigour to his enquiry?
My real objection to the film’s slavish attention to official lectures and comments is that it all gets in the way of the art. Very little of the talk is inspiring. It’s the run of the mill educational stuff that I sidestep rooms to avoid. This ordinariness is revealed when Wiseman – in a genuinely comic moment – films the TV critic Matthew Collings making a film about Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. Collings is sharp, succinct and provocative. This moment of interesting art talk makes you realise why he is on telly and the National Gallery’s curators are not.
This is not to say that Wiseman should have made a conventional didactic art film with a smooth front man. Rather, the freedom of cinema might have let him get us much closer to the paintings – into them, even. A far better film about a great art museum is Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark, a passionate and visionary portrait of the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Then again, Jean-Luc Godard says more about art, history and museums by filming his characters cheekily running through the Louvre in his 1964 film Bande à Part than Wiseman manages in three hours of aimless waffle.
If Wiseman saw young people running in the National Gallery he would alert a guard. This is a smug film that smothers high culture in deference. You’d be better off spending those three hours in the National Gallery looking at paintings, without anyone to tell you what to think – pure bliss.
De vez em quando, muito brevemente, lá surgem momentos de respiração para quebrar com a verborreia "informativa": aqueles onde se mostra o trabalho dos entalhadores e das equipas de restauro, sozinhos nas suas oficinas, em silêncio, meticulosa e delicadamente laborando nas obras dos mestres. Mas passam depressa, há que voltar á rotina dos infinitos campos/contra campos entre os quadros e o olhar "cultural" do público, não dispensando, claro está, as "preciosas" aulas dos guias para o povão ( salvam-se aquelas dadas ás crianças, momentos de recital romanesco). De resto, é só merda. Zooms inenarráveis, planos de fora do museu que estão ali apenas para sair um bocadinho do mesmo, poemas de constelações, e, sobretudo, uma autêntica nulidade de perspectivas: nem da do público, reduzido a meros ouvintes atenciosos e maravilhados com as doutrinas dos senhores curadores, nem da destes, apenas e só como meros cabeças pensantes. Termina ainda melhor: com um bailado encharcado em bebedeira de "cultura", como se já não a houvesse bastante. Do mesmo realizador de monstros (no bom sentido) Titicut Follies, do Domestic Violence ou do Juvenile Court. Mas pronto, é Wiseman, é documentário, é intocável, vamos todos bater punheta. Leviathan, Room 27389, aquela coisa do Oppenheimer, agora este...isto anda bonito no documentário, anda.
Frederico, ouve: já li aqueles livros da Taschen e já tive Metodologias de Análise de imagem. Inté.