Author:Walker, Jesse
Position::DOCUMENTARY - Movie review - Brief article

The city symphony was a film genre that flourished in the 1920s and then tapered off after the silent era. With little in the way of narration or title cards, each movie explored the many sides of a single city--different neighborhoods, different trades, different sorts of suffering, different forms of fun. They were poetic, experimental, and sometimes a little free-associative.

Frederick Wiseman's Monrovia, Indiana feels like a modern city symphony, albeit with two big changes. The first is that it isn't silent, so we can actually hear the conversations on screen. (Fortunately, there's still no hand-holding narration.) The second is that Monrovia has fewer than 2,000 people, making this more of a small-town symphony. Small or not, there's plenty to explore, from the feed-lots to the schools, a wedding to a funeral, a tattoo parlor to a ritual at the Masonic hall.

Some reviewers have radiated frustration that Wiseman would make a...

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