Dave White
Boxing Gym Review

Dave's Rating:

5.0

So good you'll want to punch something.

Who's In It: Richard William Lord

The Basics: Austin, Texas’s Lord’s Boxing Gym is located in an old warehouse with no heat and no air conditioning. It’s as beaten up as any retired boxer and run with an open door policy by one guy with an '80s Til Tuesday rat-tail hairstyle. Fifty bucks gets you a month of admission and all the stuff you can punch, within reason. This documentary takes you inside for a look. What you come away with is up to you.

What’s The Deal: Frederick Wiseman is the man behind this. He’s the documentary filmmaker that every other documentary filmmaker wishes s/he could be. He’s also the master of a very specific type of warm austerity, one that examines various institutions and their codes of conduct without any personal interference (at least until he constructs his own version of reality in the editing room). He’s already investigated French ballet companies, public schools, housing projects, domestic violence shelters, legislatures, the hidden working class of a Maine tourist town and Christmas-time at the downtown Dallas Neiman Marcus store in 1982. So this visit to a funky, downscale boxing gym is like getting his annual holiday letter.

The Anti-Narrative Narrative: Somehow, in spite of how there’s no real linear connection between a little blonde girl in a pink head wrap throwing maniac punches at the air, a father cuddling his baby while wearing boxing gloves, old men in training just to keep active, a member’s pet dog chewing on a bone, serious young women who spar with male trainers, guys cooling down while bragging about their agility or discussing the various music one can play on an accordion and a recent fatal shooting spree, it all comes together conceptually as each of those people take to the mat or the speed bag or the giant tire outside. The tire is for building strength as members take a sledgehammer to it one by one and, in an odd way, for building the little community that’s sprung up inside the rundown building.

Non-Violence 101: One of the funniest moments involves a young guy who tries to describe the pleasure he receives in the ring, “the buzz” he gets from being punched right in the face. But if there’s a message here, it’s about human movement and choreography, not exactly like the kind Wiseman shot in last year’s ballet feature La Danse, but not exactly not like that either. And though random talk about the subject of violence rises and falls, and the horror of the Virginia Tech shootings is discussed, it’s agreed upon that the stylized athletic violence of the ring is more like camaraderie than anything else. “Granted we’re aiming for each other and looking to knock each other out,” says one member, but then he goes on to explain that “everyone here is super nice and friendly.”

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