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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: December 22, 2014

The Portland Museum of Art screens ‘National Gallery,’ a film about art

Written by: Bob Keyes

The Portland Museum of Art’s final entry in its 2014 movie series is one of the year’s most-talked about art films – in this instance, a film about art.

Frederick Wiseman’s documentary “National Gallery” is both a movie about art and one completed with an artist’s eye and flair.

The Portland museum screens “National Gallery” at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Jan. 2-4. The start times are one hour earlier than usual because the movie is 173 minutes.

A veteran and widely lauded filmmaker, Wiseman gives viewers an insider’s view of London’s National Gallery. He takes us from the galleries to the boardroom and off-limits workspaces where art is conserved and prepared for exhibition. We see floors waxed, finances debated, and gold leaf applied to a carved frame.

London’s National Gallery is one of the world’s great museums, and home to paintings by Raphael, Francisco Goya, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci.

“National Gallery” has earned critical praise since its fall release. The New York Times extolled Wiseman’s “cool intelligence and … steady camera.”

Times’ critic Manohla Dargis said the movie is “fascinating in its pinpoint detail and transporting in its cosmic reach. It’s about art and process, money and mystery, and all the many, many people gazing and gawping and, at times, lining up to see a blockbuster show.”

Wiseman has made more than 40 documentaries, and is known for his cinematic approach to the genre. He won a lifetime achievement award at the Venice International Film Festival this year, and has received Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships.

In 1999, he made “Belfast, Maine,” a four-hour epic about the influence of credit card giant MBNA on the Maine town.

Steve Halpert, who curates the series for the museum, said he booked “National Gallery” based on strong reviews. “I have not screened it myself, but every indication I have found suggests it’s an extremely good film,” he said.

The timing coincides with “Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection,” on view through Jan. 4 at the museum.


WHERE: Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 5:30 p.m. Jan. 2, 1 p.m. Jan. 3-4.



Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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