1990, Movies

Central Park (1990, Frederick Wiseman)

Wiseman documentaries are a bit of a challenge if you’re in the wrong mood but at least when you’re in a theatre you have no distractions and you must confront the film without focusing on anything else. Watching one at home is a real challenge because it’s so easy to find something else to pay attention to when there’s no dialogue.

The good news with Central Park is there is relatively tons of dialogue, at least compared to some of his other films I’ve seen. That makes it a lot easier to keep paying enough attention to not miss too much.

Like any Wiseman film, there’s a lot here to find interesting. In this case, he films the park over a couple of years, after it has been restored from an apparent bad period in the early 1980s. As usual, this is completely fly-on-the-all – his thing is he doesn’t do interviews, he just films. But he doesn’t just focus on the park, he focuses on the administration, fundraising, the police, and any number of other things, which as I noted earlier, means there is a lot of dialogue compared to some of his films, which makes the film easier to digest.

Having been to the park myself, I can understand the desire to present something like this. And it’s fascinating to see the it as it looked in the late 1980s – it’s funny how some things have changed and some things have stayed utterly the same. (Also, those fashions…And Ed Koch…) It also captures some rather heated debates about the use of the park and how to spend money for the park.

I’m not sure if this film is of interest to anyone that hasn’t been there or who doesn’t have an interest in the park, or urban parks in general, but it’s a fascinating film if you are at all interested and can handle the run-time.


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