Movies

doc talk

Wiseman films, Wertmuller’s art, and a Holocaust search

Lina Wertmuller in “Behind the White Glasses.”
Kino Lorber
Lina Wertmuller in “Behind the White Glasses.”

As seen by the documentarian Frederick Wiseman, London’s National Gallery of Art and the classy Parisian strip joint Crazy Horse are essentially the same kind of organization. In “National Gallery” (2014), Wiseman observes the workings of committees, boards of directors, curators, restoration artists, and all the others whose hard work under a tight deadline combines to put on stunning displays of the works of Da Vinci and Titian. In “Crazy Horse” (2011) Wiseman does the same for the ritzy, saucy cabaret of the title — except in this case the footage behind the scenes includes glimpses of costume designers (there are costumes – though scanty and soon shed) and exhausting rehearsals for a new show, “Désir,” created by the renowned French choreographer Phillippe Decoufle.

Both films screen on Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, closing out the awesome and comprehensive “Frederick Wiseman: For the Record” retrospective that began in February.

For more information go to www.mfa.org/programs/series/frederick-wiseman-for-the-record.

Female troubler

Three women have been nominated for a best director Oscar — Kathryn Bigelow (who won) for “The Hurt Locker” (2008), Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation in (2003), and Lina Wertmuller for “Seven Beauties” (1975). For those of you unfamiliar with Wertmuller — whose other controversial films include “The Seduction of Mimi” (1972), “Love & Anarchy” (1973), and “Swept Away” (1974) — you can get a valuable film history lesson and have a seductively subversive good time watching Valerio Ruiz’s documentary “Behind the White Glasses” (2015), which at times is as transgressive and exuberant as some of Wertmuller’s own films.

Advertisement

The same is true of Wertmuller herself, who is still going strong in her 80s, singing bawdy songs, reminiscing and showing off her collection of the signature eyewear of the title (she once bought 5,000 of the glasses from a wholesale manufacturer because he wouldn’t sell them in smaller lots). This tour of her more than 50-year career, beginning when she was Federico Fellini’s assistant on “8½” (1963), includes clips from films and comments from such Wertmuller collaborators, commentators, and acquaintances as the actors Giancarlo Giannini, Sophia Loren, Harvey Keitel, and Nastassja Kinski, along with the critic John Simon.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“Behind the White Glasses” is at the Brattle from Friday through June 11.

For more information go to www.brattlefilm.org/2017/06/09/behind-the-white-glasses-3.

Tracks of tears

Railroad tracks are a recurring motif in documentaries about the Holocaust such as Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah” (1985) and now Tanja Cummings’s “Line 41: A Documentary about the Lodz Ghetto.” The title refers to the trolley that passed through the fenced-in Jewish Ghetto of Lodz, the name of which was “Germanized” into “Litzmannstadt” when the Nazis took over and the city was repopulated with German citizens and Poles with German lineage. Locked and guarded by soldiers, the trolley conveyed the free citizens — often on holiday and in their Sunday best — through the few acres crammed with more than 100,000 starving prisoners, most of whom would not survive the war.

One who did survive was Natan Grossmann, who left Poland at 17 and did not return to Lodz until 70 years later, when, accompanied by Cummings, he searches the city and its archives for traces of his parents, who died there, and for his brother, who disappeared and was never seen again. While there, he encounters Jens-Jürgen Ventzki, son of the former Nazi mayor of the city, who is also attempting to come to terms with the past.

Cummings herself brings to life that past with the harrowing recollections of her subjects and by using a white screen as a punctuating device. The blank screen fills with an ink sketch of images of the ghetto as it once was, which then dissolve into the same scene as it exists now, a poetic evocation of the process of memory and the persistence of a nightmare that must never be forgotten.

Advertisement

“Line 41: A Documentary about the Lodz Ghetto” can be seen June 14-18 at the MFA. The filmmaker will attend the 5:30 p.m. screening on June 17.

For more information go to www.mfa.org/programs/series/line-41.

A scene from “Line 41: A Documentary about the Lodz Ghetto.”
Alle Standfotos
A scene from “Line 41: A Documentary about the Lodz Ghetto.”

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.