Boxing Gym


Any new film from Doc-master Frederick Wiseman (“Titicut Follies”) is cause for celebration. Wiseman, at 80, is still a one-man crew, serving as Producer, director, editor and sound person. (John Davey is the D.P).
Wiseman’s 36 fascinating documentaries eschew narration, allowing the viewer to discover his well-observed truths.

“Crafting dramatic structure out of daily life”, Weisman’s fly on the wall humanism has influenced a generation of international minimalist stylists like Cristi Puiu, Jia Zhangke, as well as Kubrick and Scorcese.

Over the years he has focused on many of America’s institutions: ” Juvenile Court “, “High School”, mental hospitals (“Titicut Follies”), the US Army (“Basic Training”), local Police (“Law and Order”) before turning his eyes towards international topics-“Maneouvre” (about the Nato Forces), “Canal Zone,” “Sinai Field Mission.” The last Wiseman film seen in LA “La danse -Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris” played at AFI, 2009. “Boxing Gvm is a sort of companion piece.

Shot at Lord’s Gym in Austin, Texas, Wiseman observes boxers of various skill levels attempting to channel their instinct for violence into the practice of the ‘The Sweet Science”. Advising a younger boxer, an old-timer share war stories about the game and the chaotic world swirling outside the gym. The Army, robbery, Columbine and the Virginia Tech sniper massacre figure in snatches of conversations. A fleet footed Cuban trainer teaches in his rapid fire Spanish. It’s a friendly atmosphere. One young guy suggest that guys who “come in acting like a tough ass doesn’t last long” in the gym. A woman boxer warps her young son’s hands.” I even love getting hit, dude,” confides one of the young fighters. “I just love the buzz.”

Gym founder Richard Lord’s dispenses wisdom that could serve in the outside world. Optimistic Lord encourages an epileptic kid to grow into the sport through exercise. No sparring till he grows out of his condition.

Using found sound as a structuring device, Wiseman punctuates his 91 minutes with the womp of the gloves and the omnipresent buzzer of the clock timing the rounds and rest periods.

Watching the new boxers trying to get into the rhythm of the moves opens up the preoccupation with the natural limits of the human body (a topic in “La Danse” as well.) Lifting weights, sit-ups, jumping rope, shadow boxing and sparring- the filmed repetitive practice moves create a meditative state for the viewer watching so many different types of body expression. A mix of genders, ages and classes (“secretaries, doctors, lawyers’) are represented. ”I got a 68 year-old lady that can hit the speed bag better than any of my pro-fighters.” Lord tells a prospective female boxer.

Two boxers discuss salsa dancing. Another one talks about the replica of a Shakespearean Theatre. One female boxer’s baby watches from a stroller. Only a final match reminds us that all this training is about “bringing the hurt.” November 5th – Laemmle Sunset 5, Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7, Saturday and Sunday, November 13th and 14th at the Claremont 5 and Monica 4-Plex.


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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