In addition to the portraits of famous artists I wrote about two weeks ago, this year's New York Film Festival features a trio of documentaries centered on specific places. One film takes us inside a boxing gym for a timeless and objective, "fly on the wall" perspective on the pugilist sport and some of its enthusiasts. Another puts us across from The Mets' Citi Field, to the chop shops of Willets Field, Queens. And the last is a trip through the British countryside in the form of an essay film filled with both historical and contemporary commentary. Their titles, in respective order: 'Boxing Gym,''Foreign Parts,'and 'Robinson in Ruins.'
Documentary legend Frederick Wiseman follows his previous film, the Paris Opera Ballet-set 'La Danse,' with a sort of companion piece in 'Boxing Gym.' This one brings the filmmaker's typical non-narrative, purely observational style to Lord's Boxing Gym, a little hard-to-notice joint in Austin, Texas. We see some sparring, some training, some interviews -- between Richard Lord and potential members, that is; Wiseman's films don't have the talking-head sort found in traditional docs -- and eavesdrop on other conversations, including one that gives us our only sense of time by responding to the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.