Documentary Legend Frederick Wiseman's Portrait of London's Famed Museum "National Gallery" comes to PBS

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18 August 2015
National Gallery
Photo: Courtesy of copyright 2014 Gallery Film LLC & Ideale Audience; provided courtesy of Zipporah Films
Debuts Friday, August 21 at 9 PM ET/PT on PBS (Check local listings)

          The London museum, one of the world's foremost institutions, is itself portrayed as a brilliant work of art in Wiseman's 39th documentary. The filmmaker listens raptly as docents decode the great canvasses of Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Turner; he visits with the museum's restorers as they use magnifying glasses, tinyeyedroppers, scalpels, and Q-tips to repair an infinitestimal chip; he attends administrative meetings in which senior executuves do (polite) battle with the younger ones who want the musem to become less stodgy and more welcoming to a larger cross section of the public.

          But most of all, in "National Gallery" we experience the joy of spending time with the aforementioned masters as well as Vermeer and Caravaggio, Titan and Velazquez, Pissarro and Rubens, and listen to the connoisseurs who discuss the aesthetic, historical, religous and psychological underpinnings of these great masterpieces. 
          Mr. Wiseman's touch is deft but light here, and the experience of watching "National Gallery" is pleasurable and immersive because he's a wonderful storyteller. It is also unexpectedly moving. Because his other great theme is how art speaks to us, one brilliantly expresses in the relay of gazes that finds us looking at museum goers looking at portraits that look right back - at artists, art lovers and moviegoers - even as Mr. Wiseman, that sly old master, looks at all of us in turn ... Magnificent ... The movie is at once specific and general, fascinating in its pinpoint detail and transporting in its cosmic reach. It's about art and process, money and mystery ..."
   - Manohla Dargis, New York Times
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