Thursday, 29 July 2010


(Frederick Wiseman; USA; 1974)

Any opportunity to see a Wiseman has to be grabbed by the lapels, and this film is worthy of that imperative drive. In focusing on the studies performed on a variety of primates at the Yerkes Primate Research Center, Wiseman develops a documentary that is both amusing and brutal at the same time. The constant serious conversations amongst lab technicians about primate erections and ejaculates make them seem perversely fixated and even alien, while our attention and emotions are clearly attached to the plight of the primates, who are poked, prodded, stimulated, jerked off, dissected, all for reasons that are never fully made clear.

This film is also fascinating for a glimpse into the world of old technology, with repeated shots of oscillating monitors and swathes of switches and buttons that remind one of 70's sci-fi films. And, I guess, in some way, this is almost a 70's sci-fi film, with one alien group of beings coldly studying another group of lesser-fortunate beings.

Love those big 70's beards as well. They don't quite make 'em like they used to.

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