Boxing Gym provides a classic Frederick Wiseman fly-on-the-wall perspective of a quaint and functional gym where amateur boxers train to their heart’s content. As in his previous La Danse and in fact going back to his 60s film, Wiseman lets the camera do the talking, merely observing the comings and goings of the participants.
The recent documentary Countdown to Zero originally had about a minute of footage from one of Wiseman’s docs about the military personal who handle ICBM missiles although that footage wasn’t cleared for that film’s theatrical rollout.
BG takes rhythmic shots of training activity like warming up and shadow boxing. As the film progresses the training becomes more intense. There’s never one central character but rather a progression starting with beginners and kids and flowing into more experienced boxers, both men and women. We overhear conversations revolving around upcoming matches or previous training. But the main character here is the gym proper. The interiors are well lit and the focus of the shot sometimes centers on specifics, like a boxer’s stance.
At first we’re not sure of the exact location but gradually the dialogue reveals the gym to be in Austin. It’s only in the film’s last moments that Wiseman even cuts away to an establishing shot; shimmering landscape shots of the Texas capital city at dusk from afar accentuated by a final close-up of a burnt orange (how appropriate) setting sun. After watching Boxing Gym you’re going to feel like you just worked out, or maybe better yet you’ll want to jog home from the MFAH where Boxing Gym plays exclusively this week.
Boxing Gym unreels at the museum’s Brown Auditorium Wednesday, December 22, at 7 pm.; Thursday, December 23, at 7 pm.; and Sunday, December 26, at 2 and 5 pm.
— Michael Bergeron