The National Gallery in London is one of the great museums of the world with 2400 paintings from the 13th to the end of the 19th century. Almost every human experience is represented in one or the other of the paintings. The sequences of the film show the public in various galleries; the education programs, and the scholars, scientists and curators, studying, restoring and planning the exhibitions. The relation between painting and storytelling is explored.Written by
Sonate pour piano Op. 31 no 3
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by Kausikan Rajeshkumar, RCM
dans la cadre de Belle Shenkamn Music Program (correct is "Belle Shenkman music programme")
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Necessary and Compelling
"National Gallery" (2014, Frederick Wiseman), a documentary about the renowned British art museum, makes a strong case for major arts institutions. With a three-hour running time, we finish with a firm idea of both the inestimable value and fragility of The National Gallery. With a haphazard, seemingly random structure, the documentary shows people regardless of their actual involvement with the museum. We see patrons silently absorbing art; board members discussing their goals; curators discussing philosophy and techniques; janitors; wall painters; a board meeting where the discussion is about an unwelcome public marathon; budget cuts discussed at another board meeting; various educators, various video crews, museum guides analyzing master works; a male and a female nude model separately posing for what appears to be an advanced art class; adventurous Arctic activists bravely hoisting a banner at the museum's entrance; a pianist performing amid priceless paintings and a reasonably erotic, heterosexual ballet dance. Wiseman makes a compelling statement about the worth of visual arts, and it couldn't arrive to this brutal world at a better time.
Curiously, Wiseman does not introduce museum employees with captions or inform the viewer what event is occurring. This helps makes his statement universal. Rather than just a story of the National Gallery, the viewer is encouraged to gain appreciation for his or her local cultural institutions.
There are some memorable segments. I really enjoy the brief excerpts of lectures where experts interpret details in master works. The discussion of Paul Reubens's "Samson and Delilah (1609- 1610)" is interesting. So is the curator's lecture describing a Rembrandt portrait with a hidden second composition of the same subject. One of the senior museum big shots tells a laugh-out-loud joke about Moses and the Ten Commandments. Another museum guide informs a group of adolescents, several of whom are Black, that the Gallery owes its early funding to the Slave Trade. Leonardo da Vinci's power is also expressed or suggested multiple times. Finally, the ballet dance that is staged in the vicinity of two large master works reminds us that visual arts tickle the public's imagination in many ways.
It is an uneven journey, but it finishes with rising interest. "The National Gallery" will likely be enjoyed by artists of many disciplines who wish to be reminded of culture's power. It sure would be nice if the arts flourished in this particularly barbaric period while the world's militaries languished.
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