More Than da Vinci, van Gogh and Velazquez ("National Gallery")
You’re at a museum. How much time do you spend looking at a painting? How much time do you spend looking at all the paintings? How much time do you spend looking at all the people looking at all the paintings? For that matter, how much time do you spend looking at the walls, the floors, the decorative touches … the lighting.
Eyeballs on art carry an updated vision in Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, “National Gallery.” The institution that is the film’s title is one of the top art museums in London -- one of the most visited in the world. This film is more than a walk through hallowed halls from your movie seat.
Wiseman’s camera keeps an eye on all ages and geek levels. He connects you with experts weaving stories to professionals and to John Q. Public. You watch and listen to docents’ passionate involvement with revered works of art by centuries of European masters. You feel the countless hours spent researching and relating.
Wiseman takes you into back rooms where restorers spend countless hours intimately devoted to sustaining vulnerable immortality set on canvas. He rounds out the immersion in back rooms where committee members hash through marketing and budgetary considerations.
Clearly there’s a trade-off. You aren’t physically at the National Gallery. You aren’t standing present with artworks deemed precious for centuries. You aren’t engaged at your own pace.
However, you are drawn to partake in a classy international destination. You are given a precious fly-on-the-walls tour that museum-trudging tourists don’t receive. You are treated to a veteran documentarian’s sense of parsing and mixing and editing a couple/three hours of doing justice to a major museum visit.
If Wiseman has an overriding agenda, perhaps he’s intended to twiddle art’s accessibility to a larger audience on the same coin with the specialized language and lavished behavior of art’s stewards. Hey, some of you think about visiting museums and don’t manage to do it to whatever extent. Here’s a well-struck boost from an innovative movie experience that can get you there.