Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Boxing Gym

Each great film creates a world, which the audience marinates in for the length of the picture. Documentary director Frederick Wiseman's Boxing Gym meticulously and beautifully constructs the rhythmic world of Lord's Gym in Austin, Texas. As is his style, Wiseman uses no interviews, voice overs, or title cards to explain the action; he simply captures it, then cuts together a narrative from what he gathers. 
There is no musical score, but then there doesn't need to be, for the soundtrack pulsates with the human beats of fists on punching bags, sparring boxers' shifting feet, and exhausted grunting breathes. The images cut clearly and obviously, but the sound melts together to form a delicious aural collage which swaddles the whole film like a sonic blanket. 
The star of Boxing Gym is Richard Lord, the wise and crusty old proprietor of the gym that shares his name. When he's not talking to perspective and longtime members in his charmingly cluttered office, Lord floats around training kids, giving advice, and overseeing the place from which he is inseparable; he is the gym. 
The gym's patrons represent a microcosm of Austin, and indeed America. There are new moms, aspiring Army Rangers, high school kids, veteran boxers and people of all colors who simply want to better themselves. There is such harmony in this place, such a sublime come and go, peppered with idle and profound talk between strangers and old friends. I wanted to live in this world forever.

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