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film review: Boxing Gym

by Leonard Maltin
November 5, 2010 4:10 AM
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The grand old man of cinema vérité-style documentaries, Frederick Wiseman, shows no signs of slowing down, nor has he lost his keen ability to capture the sights, sounds, and overall milieu of his chosen subject. Last year he took us behind the scenes of the Paris Opera’s ballet troupe in La Danse; this year he presents a compelling portrait of life at Lord’s Gym in Austin, Texas.

As usual, there is no narration, and the filmmaker does not insert—

—himself into the proceedings. He’s just a fly on the wall as people gather at this busy establishment to work out, sharpen their skills, and dream aloud about their goals, in and out of the ring. Proprietor Richard Lord has seen it all, and displays both patience and encouragement to one and all, from a mother who’s still breast-feeding her baby to a teenager who wants to learn the ropes. Kids, businessmen, army vets, and guys who still think they might have a shot at a career in prizefighting come to Lord’s Gym.

There are no earth-shattering revelations here—just an honest slice of American life, encompassing people of all ages and races. Wiseman, who remains a one-man band (as director, producer, editor, soundman, and even his own distributor), artfully yet seamlessly presents his material as if it just came together as “a day in the life.” It most assuredly did not; that’s what makes him such a fine filmmaker, still on top of his game.

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