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'Ex Libris:' Frederick Wiseman Turns His Lens on New York's Libraries

"I simply called up Anthony Marx, who's the president of New York Public Library, and asked him whether I could do the movie."9/20/2017 2:15 AM Eastern
Pictures from an Institution: An Interview with Frederick Wiseman

In Frederick Wiseman's Ex Libris, the New York Public Library Gets Checked Out

Frederick Wiseman's Ex Libris
The latest work from the great documentary filmmaker examines the New York Public Library as it reconfigures itself for the digital age.

Frederick Wiseman on his Latest Film, Ex Libris, and His 50-Plus-Year Career

Frederick Wiseman on Ex Libris and the Democracy of Libraries

"In his latest film, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Frederick Wiseman takes his camera into the boardrooms, auditoriums, classrooms and reading nooks of the various branches of the titular institution as it struggles to adapt to a digital present," writes Akiva Gottlieb. "The nation's flagship city library needs to strategize not only how to digitize rare books for future scholars, but also how to provide crucial connectivity to the three million New Yorkers who lack access to broadband Internet."

"I just had the idea that a library might be a good subject for a film. I knew that the New York Public Library was one of the great libraries of the world,'" Wiseman says, "and so I simply called up Anthony Marx, who's the president of New York Public Library, and asked him whether I could do the movie. He asked me to come visit him, I had a meeting with him and he said, 'Okay.'" To read Gottlieb's interview with Wiseman, click here

"My approach to making these movies is much more novelistic than it is journalistic, I still read much more than I go to the movies," Wiseman tells Jose Solís. "I'm aware of influences, but I think I'm more influenced by the books I've read than the movies I've seen.

"Whatever form you work with, in an abstract sense you're dealing with the same issues: characterization, the passage of time, metaphor, abstraction, etc. That's the kind of thing I have in mind because the structure of the movies is very carefully worked out.

"For me the editing is much more like writing than anything else, I have to think about the way I introduce characters and what I say about them. For a movie to work it has to work in two ways: as a literal track and an abstract track. The real movie is created in the relationship between the literal and the abstract." To read the full interview, click here


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