It goes nowhere, which is part of director Frederick Wiseman’s intent, and a potential blow to the attention span.
I often have to stop to remember what month or season we’re in, but I possess an uncanny recall of where I saw any particular movie. A few cinematic experiences stand out, not necessarily having anything to do with the quality of what was being projected.
For example, at the age of 7, I couldn’t fully enjoy a Sunday afternoon screening of “Superman” at the French Market Twin because I thought I was going to be kidnapped (long story). In 1994, during “Pulp Fiction” at AMC Memorial Square, so nervous I was at watching Bruce Willis approach the apartment where he knew he could be shot dead, I perspired through my shirt.
And in my undergraduate years at the University of Oklahoma in the early ’90s, I sat miserably in one of Dale Hall’s largest classrooms, watching an assigned documentary that left me simultaneously bored and disturbed.
It was 1967’s “Titicut Follies,” having nothing to do with its first syllable, nor containing an ounce of folly. Directed by Frederick Wiseman, the film captured the stark daily grind among the criminally insane patients of a prison hospital. Its subject matter was made all the more off-putting by his trademark style of fly-onthe-wall filmmaking, where no true narrative exists, and no interviews are conducted; it’s as if the camera were invisible.
Wiseman’s generic approach finds reflection in many of his titles: “High School,” “Racetrack” and now “Boxing Gym,” which plays Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
The venue in question is Lord’s Gym in Austin, Texas, over which former pro boxer Richard Lord lords. Now in the second half of his life, he seems to be a happy, pleasant and skinny fellow — not exactly the type one would expect to be busting noses in the ring.
Sporting a mean rat-tail mullet that drapes over his shoulder, Lord divvies his time between his office, where he and another man discuss “regiment patterns,” and the floor, where we watch people — men, women, adults, kids — train and train and train. A guy vacuums the floor. More training ensues. The sun sets. The end.
The film is a stream of scenes snatched here and there, of low to medium interest. A man taking a medicine ball to the stomach — on purpose, repeatedly — is something to see; Lord teaching an amateur boxer the proper use of mouth guards is not. Throughout the film, the five-tone beep of a timer sounds ... so many times, it will drive you a fraction of crazy as the stars of “Titicut.”
Spending an hour and a half at this “Gym” is akin to watching someone’s home movies. At least the camera doesn’t shake much. I can recommend it to inside-sports enthusiasts — particularly pugilists, of course — but everyone else may be better served by “The Fighter.”