Beat to the Punch

Boxing Gym is 80-year-old documentarian Frederick Wiseman's 38th feature. Despite its relatively modest length and ordinary subject matter, it seems a crowning accomplishment. For most of its 91 minutes, the movie remains within the well-worn, cheerfully cluttered confines of R. Lord's Boxing Gym, a refurbished garage in a nondescript Austin neighborhood. The gym serves a multi-ethnic, mixed-gender assortment of school kids, young semi-pros, and middle-aged amateurs. Wiseman is an artist who constructs his pieces from chunks of reality and lets reality speak for itself, so he develops a point of view without a narrative. The filmmaker watches a mother carefully wrap her young son's hands, eavesdrops on Richard Lord reassuring an epileptic child who wants to box, and listens to a woman's plan to buy her husband “time to be in the ring” for his 40th birthday. Emphasizing boxing as discipline rather than contest, Wiseman withholds an actual match until the movie's final minutes — and it's a shock when it comes. However sporting, the slugfest is primitive enough to restore every doubt you might have harbored about boxing but repressed during the course of the film; the adversaries are no longer mastering themselves but inflicting pain on each other. Wiseman, who perhaps harbors doubts himself, uses the fight to make a cosmic segue from the gym to the outside world as if to note: Such is life on earth.
Dec. 22-23, 7 & 9 p.m.; Dec. 25-30; Jan. 1-2; Jan. 5-6, 2010

Tags: , , ,

Related Stories