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Central Park (1990)

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Cast

Credited cast:
LeVar Burton ... Himself
Francis Ford Coppola ... Himself
Luciano Pavarotti ... Himself
Vittorio Storaro ... Himself
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independent film | See All (1) »

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Documentary

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

April 1990 (USA) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Just a walk in the park
15 September 2002 | by TVholicSee all my reviews

Central Park, as designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, is amazing. 843 acres of man-made urban oasis (not even the Lake is natural), one of the largest metropolitan parks in the country, smack dab in the middle of its most densely populated city. "Central Park," the documentary, celebrates this irreplaceable marvel, taking in most of the familiar sights including the boat pond, the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, the Bandshell, the reservoir, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, the Arsenal, the police precinct, etc. But it also ventures out to buildings bordering the park for segments on Central Park Conservancy fundraising and a public hearing about park reconstruction.

Frederick Wiseman's documentary style is to stay out of the way of the subject matter. He shows pictures, nothing more, although he obviously chooses what he wants to show or not show. There's no intrusive host, no ever-present narrator dispensing factoids or opinions, no graphics or music, instead leaving the viewer to come to his or her own conclusions. Here, it's just three hours of sights and sounds of genuine New York, not the ersatz, squeaky clean image of "Friends" or the exaggerated grittiness of crime dramas. Still, Wiseman doesn't flinch from occasionally depressing reality in the form of drug users or the homeless. The camera often lingers on various park workers like bricklayers and groundskeepers, reminding us of just how much work it is to keep up such a massive park. Some of the other subjects are obviously playing to the camera and enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. The best moments are the candid shots, when people either don't realize or don't care that they're being filmed. In these 176 minutes, you'll see a good number of the hundred thousand or so people who use the park on a nice day for a wide range of purposes. Makeshift backyard, impromptu classroom, outdoor concert hall, you name it. The documentary seems almost timeless, with only a few scenes (including an appearance by former mayor Ed Koch) betraying its age.

Watching this is like spending a lazy summer day wandering in and around the park, but covering a lot more ground than you could on foot and without the sweat and the sore legs. And just like walking through the park yourself, sometimes things drag a little. But on the whole, "Central Park" is the next best thing when you can't get to Central Park.


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