CITY HALL (2020)

(kanopy/MUBI) A doc from legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman that details the human infrastructure that allows a city to operate, primarily through Boston mayor Marty Walsh (who happens to be Biden’s pick for Labor Secretary).

I don’t know enough about Boston politics to properly judge the players in the doc’s spotlight, but I don’t think you need to. CIYT HALL pulls back the curtain to allow you to spend time — a lot of time, as the doc runs over four and a half hours — to see how the municipal sausage is made. You’ll watch politicians discuss agendas, but you’ll also be a fly-on-the-wall in parking ticket disputes, observe a community meeting concerning a cannabis shop, find yourself mesmerized by the mechanical power of a garbage truck, eavesdrop on 311 calls, and more.

While most filmmakers would focus solely on the impassioned bits — of which there are many — Wiseman showcases full twenty minute meetings and exchanges where, more than once, you can feel the boredom radiating from the room. CITY HALL lets you sit with the procedure and banal back-and-forth that it takes to help people, to try and make sure that Boston is operating as smoothly as humanly possible.

There’s a moment near the end of the film where you’re simply slowly shown a number of quiet spots throughout Boston, and the pacing and range of imagery instills the feeling that the city itself is breathing, fueled by the efforts of everyone and everything Wiseman has shown us over the past four hours.