Trained as a lawyer, Wiseman has chosen as his ever-evolving cinematic subject the American social contract, and how the machinery of the state upholds or shreds it. His first film is a hellish descent into a Massachusetts institution for the criminally insane where, it would seem, the lunatics have taken over the asylum. The editing often purposefully blurs the distinction between patient (some irretrievably deranged, some desperately lucid) and doctor. Wiseman fixes his steady, steely gaze on abuse, neglect, medical ineptitude, and appalling conditions; one horrifyingly expressionist segment, rare in Wiseman's work, cross-cuts between the force feeding of a patient and the later preparation of the same man's corpse. The film is often extremely difficult to watch and was, for a long time, nearly impossible to see. The Massachusetts authorities suppressed Titicut for a quarter century, arguing that it violated the privacy of the inmates - a risible claim, as it's painfully clear that these men had no rights at all.
Theatrical Release: October 3rd, 1967
DVD Review: Zipporah Films - Region 0 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
CLICK to order from:
|Distribution||Zipporah Films - Region 0 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 6.52 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital)|
Zipporah Films sent me Wiseman's Titicut Follies and High School for review. His documentary work has been in high demand for a long time and to quote Manohla Dargis of The New York Times; “...a cause for celebration...Frederick Wiseman went digital...Taken together, this is work that presents a sweeping, continuing portrait of modern America, its institutions, social relations, administrative and bureaucratic controls and of course—right at the center of this filmmaker’s unyielding frame—its people.”
Technically, the discs are at the low scale - this one is single-layered at 4.01 Gig and all appear to have been recorded to decent quality DVD-Rs. Although image quality is not crisp and shows combing from interlacing - the pragmatic features seem to hold their virtuosity... and undeniable impact. I can't add much more than viewing the screen captures below. There are some speckles and minor damage marks to augment the bare-bones presentation which has similarly weak audio and no option for subtitles. There are nine chapter stops, one menu screen and the DVD cover is appears produced from a common laser printer you might find on your desk at home.
I am sure fans won't be overly disappointed in the meager presentations - being fully content just to have these intriguing and clandestine offerings in their possession. Some form of supplement may have further justified the 'individual' pricing of $34.95. I can't really find a comparison to any other cinema work I have seen - possibly the Maysles brothers? The two features I watched have a strange unique appeal and I am very tempted to indulge in more. Zipporah are selling a number of Wiseman works on DVD including - Adjustment & Work, Aspen, Ballet, Basic Training, Belfast, Maine, Blind, Central Park, Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence 2, High School, High School II, Juvenile Court, Law And Order, Manoeuvre, Meat, Missile, Model, Public Housing, State Legislature, The Last Letter (La Derniére Lettre), The Store, Titicut Follies, Welfare and Zoo. Those keen on Wiseman or who may be interested might wish to initially purchase a few first. I suspect that most will find these limited technical DVDs sill hold their value.