At Berkeley (2013)
Critic Consensus: Its generous running time will test less forbearing viewers' patience, but for filmgoers seeking more of director Frederick Wiseman's observant brand of documentary, At Berkeley satisfies.
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Critic Reviews for At Berkeley
At Berkeley earns credit for documenting a distinctly articulate community.
The film contains numerous scenes showing higher education at its best.. But these moments are gradually overwhelmed by scenes of administrators dealing with an ongoing budget crisisdealing with an ongoing budget crisis.
The fragility of public education looms in the background of every scene, but, as always, Wiseman proves a wizard at shutting up and listening and learning.
A film is not just about intent. It is also an experience, and this is where "At Berkeley" becomes an iffy proposition.
Anyone who cares about documentary filmmaking, or about the state of public higher education, will find themselves quietly dazzled by the picture Wiseman paints here, in small dabs.
Audience Reviews for At Berkeley
The camera work isn't the issue. I hate to be a contrary to the critics but I found the subject matter to be dull and slightly depressing. The scene of some of the most monumental protests of the 60s is now a university like all the rest with the same dull discussions on direction and even dull protesters.
I'm quick to jump the gun that in terms of objective AND subjective quality "At Berkeley" is the "Tree of Life" of documentaries, but I think it's more analogous to being the "Gravity" of documentaries -- this is arguably the most YOU ARE THERE (i.e., YOU GIVE A SHIT ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING) account of real-life filmmaking I've ever seen. It's also hands-down one of the most visibly exhausting this side of "Shoah", and doubles as a comprehensive pamphlet (or, clocking in at just over four hours long, more of a field guide, or a brick) without ever towing the line of intellectual-porn propaganda.
Go ahead, roll your eyes at the above and dub it and/or me pretentious. But just because Frederick Wiseman's film is challenging and not Frederick's of Hollywood (LOL had to do it) doesn't mean it should be ignored. Actually, it deserves to be seen by any- and everyone. If ever there was a movie that gets you excited about the prospects of education, "At Berkeley" is it. An unbelievably dense yet picturesque novel-as-film with all the widescreen weight of a coffee table book -- its original 250 hours of footage directed, edited and produced to the nines by the legendary 83-year-old Wiseman -- certain people often (wrongly) forever stick to the ancient adage that "they don't make movies like they used to anymore." Yet with "At Berkeley" at least, that's precisely the sentiment it left me with. (95/100)
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