City Hall (2020)

City Hall (2020)

A massive four-hour-plus account of the ecosystem of local government in Boston

7.6

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary
2020
FREDERICK WISEMAN
Marty Walsh
272 min

TLDR

See, working in government should be difficult if you actually care.

What it's about

Director Frederick Wiseman observes the goings-on in and around Boston City Hall a couple of years into Donald Trump's presidency.

The take

From the sheer size of Frederick Wiseman's documentaries (both in length and scope), it should be clear that his goal isn't necessarily to have us retain every piece of information he gives us in all of this film's board meetings and press conferences. This is a film interested in the macro view of how a city works, and Wiseman's attention to detail even in his old age (he's 94 at the time of writing this) is truly inspiring for any aspiring documentarian. City Hall doesn't necessarily tell us anything we might not already know about the coordination between a local government unit and its constituents and citizens, but Wiseman gets us to think of the grand design of it all—which is both wondrous and horrifying to behold.

What stands out

Given City Hall's nature as a film, there obviously aren't that many opportunities here to craft dense characters out of these real people running around doing their jobs. But it's still impressive how Wiseman clearly situates the events of this film in the late 2010s. Then-mayor of Boston Marty Walsh is portrayed as neither righteous nor difficult, coming off objectively as a person trying to reassure and negotiate with a growing movement of people who are rightfully upset over the policies trickling down from the White House. This delicate tension between keeping the ecosystem running and wanting to overhaul it for better results runs quietly beneath the whole four-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

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