'National Gallery' Director Frederick Wiseman on Making Films to His Own Taste

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Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary, National Gallery, is a three-hour film about the London museum that unfolds as leisurely as his previous oeuvre.

“I don’t know how to think about an audience,” Wiseman says to Realscreen. “I don’t know anything about your interests, your education, whether you like painting or not. I have no idea. All I try to do is think I am the audience, and I make it to my own tastes…If they’re put off by it, they shouldn’t watch it.”

The 84-year-old filmmaker explains his personal approach to such a broad subject. “The question was what I was trying to represent, what my understanding of what was going on at the National Gallery [was], and how could I…give dramatic narrative form to that understanding,” he says. “I would easily make the argument that National Gallery is one of the most social films that I’ve made because there is almost no human experience that isn’t in one of the paintings. They deal with all the major human experiences – death, religion, war. It’s presented in a more abstract form, but the subject matter really isn’t that different if you think about what it is you’re looking at.”

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