If, after humanity snuffs it, all that's left are the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman, whoever follows us will have a good idea of our civilization. While lacking the ironies of At Berkeley, this portrait of an institution's place in a multicultural city triumphs as an exploration of what knowledge means in the 21st century—as economic necessity, as philosophical enrichment, and as a pragmatic battle to be fought.
Al igual que sus últimos documentales, la exploración de Wiseman dentro de los expansivos límites de la Public Library de NY se concentra en las posibilidades del trabajo organizado como motor de las instituciones públicas. En su afán por registrarlo todo, Wiseman nos hace descubrir los engranajes secretos de todo un universo del que no queda excluído la intervención del dinero como rector de todo lo que nos rodea.
I guess we are always harsher with the filmmaker we love. "Ex Libris" is interesting in today´s Trump era to remind that culture is above all a social issue. But Wiseman used to look at things with a special eye and this now looks a lot like advertising to me. Does he still look at our institutions freely, with the same eye he had in "Welfare" or "Law and order" or does he get picked by them to do films? You wonder.
Wiseman's interest has lied mainly in slicing out pieces of american culture and examining it from the inside-out, which in this case, proves to be the most necessarily roving, as he looks inside the public library-the sole institution that preserves our culture while adapting to the changing world around us.
Strangely very few films take place in libraries. Being the last free place in an increasingly commercialized society they are places full of stories and strange characters. Even in the sleepy Norwegian library I worked in there were lots of trouble going on, but Wiseman mostly focus on the harmonic things; civilized discussions and routine work. He should make a film in a more ordinary place, a failing mall in Ohio?
Really good documentary on a terrific institution. I love how Wiseman doesn't explain who are the different participants and just throw you in the midst of this complex system. But I must say I found the economic and budget discussion a bit too long and too recurrent, especially in the end of the film.