Frederick Wiseman's Paean to the New York Public Library, EX LIBRIS, Opens this Weekend

EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screens at the AFS Cinema starting on Friday, October 27. Buy tickets and get more info here.

A new documentary by Frederick Wiseman is always a major cinematic event. The maker of TITICUT FOLLIES, HIGH SCHOOL, LAW AND ORDER and many other timeless classics of the form deserves our respect and adulation, of course, but here's the funny thing: he's lost nothing of his touch, his eye, his ear, and as he examines the institutions of modern life his carefully (sneakily, even) observations are even more valuable.

Recently he has been on quite a roll, documenting institutions of great cultural value (NATIONAL GALLERY, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, AT BERKELEY), and his newest film EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY is a top-to-bottom, thorough portrait of that venerable repository, the people who staff it, and the people who use it every day.

The documentary highlights the variety of community programs, from tutoring to dance classes, offered by the N.Y.P.L., and gives a voice to everyday patrons, who extol the library’s virtues as a hub of the community. Underscoring it all, the film documents the multitude of changes and challenges the library is facing in our digital age.

It's fascinating, and, as always with Wiseman, revelatory.

Not surprisingly, the critics are effusive:

Manohla Dargas of The New York Times: “In “Ex Libris,” democracy is alive and in the hands of a forceful advocate and brilliant filmmaker, which helps make this one of the greatest movies of Mr. Wiseman’s extraordinary career and one of his most thrilling.”

Anthony Lane of The New Yorker:Steeped in the study of institutions, he (Wiseman) understands the value, and the thrill, of delving into them as they undergo a sea change, and no place could be richer or stranger than a library that is swept up in the electronic age…”

Kenneth Turan at the LA Times: “heartening examination of the vastness of human knowledge and the multiple ways we the people endeavor to access it.”

Anita Katz of the San Francisco Examiner: “Wiseman has combined his old master’s skill, his child’s capacity for enthusiasm, and his gift for drama (and sometimes comedy) in this vital, mesmerizing portrait of an institution.”

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe:  “Ex Libris” is a profoundly hopeful movie.


Watch Wiseman discuss his new film here:

And check out his great, in-depth interview in Vanity Fair.