A former lawyer, Wiseman has captured American institutional life more fully than any other documentarian. Of all the filmmakers who emerged in the heyday of direct cinema in the 1960s, Wiseman remain...
|I Miss Sonia Henie||Director||n/a||2|
|La Comédie Française ou l'Amour Joué||Director||n/a||2|
|Law & Order||Director||n/a||2|
|Domestic Violence 2||Director||n/a||2|
|La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet||Director||n/a||2|
|La Dernière Lettre||Director||n/a||2|
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|The Cool World||Producer||n/a||3|
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|La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet||Producer||n/a||3|
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|La Comédie Française ou l'Amour Joué||Editor||n/a||10|
|Domestic Violence 2||Editor||n/a||10|
|La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet||Editor||n/a||10|
|La Dernière Lettre||Editor||n/a||10|
|High School II||Editor||n/a||10|
|Adjustment and Work||Editor||n/a||10|
|Titicut Follies||Sound/Sound Designer||n/a||20|
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|La Comédie Française ou l'Amour Joué||Sound/Sound Designer||n/a||20|
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|To Render a Life||Actor||Himself||1|
|Central Park (1988-1989)||Director||n/a||1988||2|
|Public Housing (1996-1997)||Director||n/a||1996||2|
|La Comedie Francais, ou l'amour joue||Director||n/a||2|
|La Comedie-Francaise, Ou L'Amore Joue (1995-1996)||Director||n/a||1995||2|
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|Law and Order||Director||n/a||2|
|State Legislature (2005-2006)||Director||n/a||2005||2|
|The Last Letter||Director||n/a||2|
|Central Park (1988-1989)||Producer||n/a||1988||3|
|Public Housing (1996-1997)||Producer||n/a||1996||3|
|The Cool World||Producer||n/a||3|
|La Comedie-Francaise, Ou L'Amore Joue (1995-1996)||Producer||n/a||1995||3|
|Domestic Violence 2 (2001-2002)||Producer||n/a||2001||3|
|Law and Order||Producer||n/a||3|
|State Legislature (2005-2006)||Producer||n/a||2005||3|
|The Last Letter||Source Material||(from stage play)||4000005|
|Central Park (1988-1989)||Editor||n/a||1988||7000005|
|La Comedie Francais, ou l'amour joue||Editor||n/a||7000005|
|Public Housing (1996-1997)||Editor||n/a||1996||7000005|
|La Comedie-Francaise, Ou L'Amore Joue (1995-1996)||Editor||n/a||1995||7000005|
|Law and Order||Editor||n/a||7000005|
|Domestic Violence 2 (2001-2002)||Editor||n/a||2001||7000005|
|State Legislature (2005-2006)||Editor||n/a||2005||7000005|
|Central Park (1988-1989)||Sound||n/a||1988||14000005|
|La Comedie Francais, ou l'amour joue||Sound||n/a||14000005|
|La Comedie-Francaise, Ou L'Amore Joue (1995-1996)||Sound||n/a||1995||14000005|
|State Legislature (2005-2006)||Sound||n/a||2005||14000005|
|First film as director, the feature-length documentary "Titicut Follies"|
|Served in US Army|
|First film as producer, the fiction feature "The Cool World" (dir. Shirley Clarke)|
|Taught at Boston University Institute of Law and Medicine|
Since 1968 Wiseman has produced over 20 films, each of which (with the exception of his first documentary, "Titicut Follies") has been broadcast nationally on PBS. From 1971 to 1981, Wiseman had two successive five-year contracts to make one film a year, with no constraints as to subject or running time, and to premiere them on New York's PBS station, WNET. Since the expiration of the second contract, Wiseman has financed his work through money from his MacArthur Foundation Grant and fees from the rentals of his films through his own distribution company, Zipporah Films, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Wiseman began his career by producing a fiction feature about Harlem teenagers, "The Cool World" (1963), adapted from the novel by Warren Miller and directed by New York filmmaker Shirley Clarke. Four years later, he inaugurated his "institutional series" of documentaries with "Titicut Follies" (1967), about life in a prison for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The film quickly became mired in lengthy litigation with state authorities, and the ensuing controversy established Wiseman's somewhat inaccurate reputation as an uncompromising muckraker.
Wiseman's other early films did seem to fulfill this promise, tending to work as exposes of public, tax-supported institutions. "High School" (1969), "Law and Order" (1969), "Hospital" (1970), "Juvenile Court" (1973) and "Welfare" (1975) show the institutions of public health, education and welfare, the police force and the legal system, collapsing under their own bureaucratic weight and dehumanizing their clients.
With time, however, Wiseman's films have become less didactic and more complex. Motivated early in his career by reformist optimism, Wiseman has grown less sure of film's ability to stimulate social change. Beginning with "Primate" (1974), Wiseman began to express more sweeping thematic concerns about both American culture and the film experience itself. His handling of point-of-view and montage, and his ability to discover symbolic potential in everyday events, marks "Primate" as a maturation of Wiseman's style.
His more recent films tend to expand the idea of institution from a limited geographical space to the physically unbounded operations of ideology. "Model" (1980) and "The Store" (1983) take as their subjects advertising and consumerism, continuing the filmmaker's exploration of the nature of visual imagery, while "Canal Zone" and "Sinai Field Mission" (both 1977) indirectly examine American society by depicting the presence of US citizens in foreign settings: Panama and the Middle East, respectively.
Wiseman's films are not structured chronologically, as is usually the case with both direct cinema and cinema verite. They are structured thematically, with sequences connected by comparison, contrast, parallelism, inversion, irony or other rhetorical devices, creating what critic Bill Nichols has called a "mosaic" structure. Narration--whether by someone speaking to the camera or in voice-over--is never provided. Viewers are forced to participate in the films, since they must actively contemplate the subtle relationships between sequences. Wiseman edits his own films, devoting a considerable amount of time to the task. For each film, he spends from four to six weeks on location shooting, but much longer in the editing room ("High School" took a relatively short four months, "Primate" fourteen).
Wiseman has also ventured into fiction filmmaking, writing an early script for "The Stunt Man" (directed by Richard Rush in 1979), which he claims bears no relation to the final film, and writing and directing "Seraphita's Diary" (1982), an experimental feature that flopped commercially.
|School of Law, Yale University|
|University of Paris|
|"Titicut Follies" is reputedly the only movie in American history to be banned for reasons other an obscenity. The ban against public screenings (on the grounds that the film was an invasion of the inmates' privacy--however, Wiseman claimed that he had obtained permission from the inmates in the presence of guards) was lifted in Massachusetts by a July 19, 1991 court decision. Until the decision, the film could only be viewed by mental health professionals, students and others with an interest in the subject.|
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