Frederick Wiseman’s masterpiece takes place over three hours in the hallowed halls, galleries of one of the world’s richest museums, ensconced on Trafalgar Square in London; the length of the documentary adds to its depth; we troll the galleries with visionary educators, blinders removed, intensely looking, intellectually devouring iconic works; works still thriving, long after their masters have perished; painstaking, tedious progress of restorers, anonymous, non-fictional “Gabriel Allon’s”, whose efforts are devised to be erased by time. Not just for art lovers, but for anyone interested in the power of film to educate, elucidate, crushing barriers, allowing those incapable of traveling, to immerse themselves in archival treasures, swallowed whole: “Jonah’s” in the belly of artistic virtuoso.
Delving into the venerable works of: Vermeer (1632-1675), focusing on “A Young Woman Standing as a Virginal” his inimitable mastery of light and form; Rubens (1577-1640) lush, voluptuous, doomed “Samson and Delilah”; Turner’s (1775-1851) luminous, watery landscapes; Velazquez (1599-1660) mysterious, sensuous “Toilet Of Venus”; Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) brutally realistic self-portrait, scars of life scream from his deeply-etched countenance; George Stubbs’s (1724-1806) whose “Whistlejacket”, remarkably –refined racehorse is photographic in perfection.
But it is Titian (1488/90-1576) and his lionization of Roman poet Ovid’s (43BC-17/18AD) “Metamorphosis” that resonates at the core of “National Gallery”. Pulsating, undulating, rapturous brushstrokes depict the mythological story of divine, chaste “Diana”, her interactions with her maid, “Callisto” and ardent admirer “Actaeon”; a poignantly beautiful tableau of his demise; a celestial partnership that is redolently, provocatively alive today.
The conclusion of the film is breathtaking, mesmerizing, magical in its scope.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!