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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.
All Critics (53)
| Top Critics (19)
| Fresh (46)
| Rotten (7)
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.
The observations coalesce into a cogent whole, providing insights that are never overtly stated.
The feeling evoked by this fantastic swarm of activity, constructed around the life of the mind, has sustained me now for more than a half-century. Wiseman's documentary captures at least something of its wonder and also-alas-of its fragility.
Indeed, in its implicit defense of educational democracy, At Berkeley is doubly didactic and one of Wiseman's most passionate films.
[Director Frederick] Wiseman isn't a political filmmaker in any conventional sense... But as in "Crazy Horse," he expresses a clear, sometimes critical, point of view about his subjects.
It's difficult to say that this isn't exactly the picture Wiseman wanted to make, flaws and all.
Wiseman is fearless about letting people speak long and uninterrupted and the truth is no longer reduced to cheap soundbites. Instead a slow picture builds of a California institution unlike any other.
For once, Wiseman seems to be pushing a message, as he warns that a society that devalues learning will fatally undermine itself.
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.
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