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.