Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boxing Gym

Frederick Wiseman's documentary Boxing Gym is a record of life at Lord's Gym in Austin, Texas. Lord's Gym serves as a boxing training facility, and is run by Richard Lord, former professional boxer and trainer. I do not have any opinion on film theory, but I like films, books, and articles that show what it is like to be alive in a particular place at a particular time. This is what I take to be the purpose of the movie.
In the course of the 91 minute documentary, we see the boxing patrons discussing a wide variety of topics: their upcoming deployment to Iraq, the Virginia Tech shooting, a feud between pro fighters Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, as well as playing with their infants after a heavy bag workout, and discussing the ins and outs of training. Prominently featured, of course, is the owner Richard Lord, who trains, teaches the basics of boxing, and jaws with mothers looking to enroll their kids in an extracurricular activity.
There is no narration or expository text to explain, or, I guess, to interfere with your experience of the film. Wiseman seems to feel that by attempting not to interact with the subjects, a feel or sense of this place will emerge, and strangely, it does. I found my mind wandering occasionally during the rhythmic, repetetive training, but then it would be brought back by the sometimes funny everyday conversations.
And, a portrait of Richard Lord emerges. The somewhat wry owner listens to his customers patiently, and we watch him navigate through his workday. There is a scene where he hides his amusement with a kid with a black eye who wants to take up boxing. Say, you're not doing this just to get revenge are you? The viewer is left with a sense of a place where people go to exercise and talk, part of a community, as much as a place for training to box. If you like documentaries, this movie is worth seeing.