PRINT February 2000


Frederick Wiseman

WE CAN ARGUE OVER WHETHER OR NOT Frederick Wiseman is the most gifted documentary filmmaker America has ever produced, but he is surely the most obsessive. He began his career in 1967, abandoning his law practice to chronicle the treatment of inmates at Bridgewater, Massachusetts’s State Prison for the Criminally Insane. The outcome of that effort was Titicut Follies, a legendary muckraker of a picture (though we can only speculate about the reforms it might have inspired, since its release was held up by legal hassles for two and a half decades). In the thirty-three years he has now been making movies, Wiseman has conducted an exhaustive exploration of the way Americans live, recorded in thirty movies about institutions (High School [1968], Juvenile Court [1973], Welfare [1975]), industries and careers (Meat [1976], Model [1980], Missile [1987]), significant spaces (Canal Zone [1977],

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