Television: Viewpoints: Shooting The Institution

For the better part of a decade, Film Documentarian Frederick Wiseman has been sending us—mostly over the Public Broadcasting Service—a series of Goyaesque pictures from our institutions. The police, the courts, hospitals, a high school, the Army, even a monastery have given him his subjects. In almost every instance he has found them to be butterfingered bureaucracies. They show more dedication to preserving the untroubled functioning of their own administrative systems than to doing their job, which is usually supposed to be helping people. What has made these brutal films bearable is that...

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