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Old 10-31-2010, 06:15 PM   #1
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Default 'Boxing Gym' - the documentary - could be one to keep an eye out for.

'Boxing Gym'

AMG Review of the documentary - Oct 22nd 2010

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Frederick Wiseman has built a long career as one of Americaís best-respected documentary filmmakers by sticking to the old axiom ďDonít tell me ó show me.Ē

Wisemanís films never feature a narrator, donít have an obvious axe to grind, and donít shape the material so it follows a narrative path; instead, Wiseman simply drops us into the middle of some place and lets us see what the people there are doing.

Wiseman has been doing this since 1967, and it speaks to his talents as a filmmaker and a judge of human nature that his deceptively simple formula produces such compelling and insightful results. Heís made over three dozen films, and his latest, Boxing Gym, is as fresh and engaging as any documentary in the last several years, an absorbing look into a slice of life that rarely appears onscreen with such clarity.

Boxing Gym offers a fly-on-the-wall look at a typical few days at R. Lordís Boxing Gym in Austin, TX, where former boxer Richard Lord helps train aspiring fighters and provides a space for men and women interested in the sweet science to work out.

Lordís Gym is home to a few promising professionals, but most of the folks who frequent the place are clearly too old, out of shape, or amateurish to ever make the grade as prizefighters, and Wiseman never lets on who the pros are and whoís just trying to stay in shape.

Instead, we watch with equal attention as the up-and-coming boxers, the former pugilists, the nervy twentysomethings, the working moms, and the middle-aged (or older) men go through their routines, sometimes with the help of Lord and his staff and sometimes alone, lost in their own imaginary championship bouts.

If Boxing Gym has a star, itís Richard Lord, a wiry, rough-hewn but likable guy who looks after his customers even as he tries to bring in new clients. When a teenager comes in to sign up sporting a black eye, Lord firmly tells him that taking up fighting out of anger is a bad idea, and when a young boy with an interest in boxing stops by with his mother in tow, Lord is all business after she tells him the boy has epilepsy, assuring her heíll see to it that the boy isnít hurt. Itís not hard to believe Lord, since thereís no air of violence at his gym; despite the commitment of the clients to a punishing sport, no one in this film throws a punch out of anger, and one guy even remarks about how all the folks there are ďsuper friendly.Ē

Itís the gym itself that dominates the picture more than any one person; a former garage whose walls are covered in mirrors, old fight posters, and tattered newspaper clippings, Lordís Gym is packed with well-used equipment (often covered with layers of duct tape), and the big room is in a constant hum of activity as the customers bounce around the ring, swat at the punching bags, lift weights, or embrace more esoteric training methods, including pounding old tires with sledge hammers and doing leapfrog games in the ring.

Wiseman eagerly embraces the rich variety of people who populate Lordís Gym, and the overheard conversations range from ah overenthusiastic Texan talking boxing with a young guy from the United Kingdom to two academics who discuss literary technique during a break in their workouts. If Lordís seems like a blue-collar hangout, itís not exclusionary, and thereís a curious harmony in these people ó male and female; black, white, and Hispanic; soldiers and civilians; young and not-so-young ó as they unite in their shared fondness for hitting things and the rush of competition, even if most are clearly only competing against themselves.

One of the filmís most striking moments comes as two different clients, a man and a woman, are shadowboxing in the same ring; they never truly regard each other, but their movements intuitively counterpoint one another, as each is locked in a tight focus on their own movements and the battle against their imaginary opponents. Itís a recurring theme in Boxing Gym, as we frequently follow these fight fans lost in their workouts, but Wiseman has a way of keeping it sharp no matter how often it crosses the screen by giving each would-be boxer the personality and dignity he or she deserves.

While Boxing Gym was clearly shot on the fly, Wiseman and cinematographer John Davey have given the material a strong and richly detailed look, and the film captures the constant flow of sound and movement inside the gym without losing track of the details. And without writing a single character, Wiseman has filled this movie with dozens of people who offer fascinating insights into their lives and outlooks in a matter of minutes. Frederick Wiseman is a filmmaker who doesnít tell us about the people he films; instead, he lets them show us something about their passions, and youíll be introduced to dozens of people worth knowing in Boxing Gym.

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Old 10-31-2010, 07:36 PM   #2
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