With Christmas on the horizon, we’re delighted to present master documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s The Store, a two-hour immersion into the world of retail. Wiseman, who notably self-distributes his films through his company Zipporah, has made documentaries about all classes of American life and the institutions they frequent for over fifty years. You can discover more of his films on Kanopy (in the U.S.) and through UniversCiné (in France).
Filmed in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas at the main Neiman-Marcus store and corporate headquarters in Dallas, TX, Wiseman’s revelatory look at the renowned department store discloses the many strategies and practices involved in the selling of luxury goods, from sable coats to lingerie. As he cuts between marketing meetings, personnel training, and fitting room sessions, Wiseman deftly shows how the store’s many departments operate in sync, enticing their customers into buying products on every floor.
”If you are going to have theories about American society, you’ve got to look at all aspects of it.” You’ve got to look at how the images are created that affect people’s lives and the choices of consumer goods they buy.” FREDERICK WISEMAN
According to Wiseman, The Store was made as an outgrowth of his previous documentary Model (1981), in which he focused on “the aestheticization of the body to sell commercial products.” Here, his attention to how those products are sold alongside his depiction of everyone involved in manicuring their appearance to look desirable—from workers arranging light fixtures to salespeople pulling samples for customers—zeroes in on the sophisticated customs involved in selling and buying products in America, an everyday transaction that Wiseman is keen to present as an event rather than a banality.
Frederick Wiseman was born in Boston, MA, in 1930. After earning a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College in 1951 and a Bachelor of Laws from Yale Law School in 1954, he served in the army for two years and subsequently taught law at the Boston University Institute of Law and Medicine. His first film, Titicut Follies (1967), documented the patients of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Bridgewater, MA, and was recently inducted into the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Wiseman has been making a film almost every year since he started filmmaking, which has resulted in a filmography replete with inquisitive portraits of important places and institutions. His newest film, Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros (2023), is a four-hour documentary about a French restaurant that has held three Michelin stars for more than fifty years.
Over the holidays, we’re taking a more relaxed pace; our films will screen for two weeks.
Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Special thanks to Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek, Zipporah Films and UniversCiné.