Meet the People of Monrovia, Indiana

The new Wiseman is finally here!  Monrovia, Indiana has been, like most interesting movies these days, one of those films you read about when they're traveling through the festival circuit, then you have to wait at least a year - if not several - before getting a chance to actually see it.  Honestly, I think I've wound up forgetting about a bunch of flicks I'd been excited to see between the initial hype and the eventual home video release, but of course I can't be sure.  This is Frederick Wiseman though, so there's no way I was gonna forget to jump on this release date.  Originally scheduled for mid-May, Zipporah Film's lab apparently, "had a glitch with the Blu-ray discs," and production was delayed.  But 2018's Monrovia, Indiana is landing this week, and I'm well beyond ready, so let's get moving.
During the past year when I could do nothing but read reviews, I noticed not a single one seemed to be able to go without bringing up Trump.  And even though several of those reviews specifically point out that Trump's name is actually uttered in the course of this doc, I was still expecting Monrovia to be Wiseman's hot take on the current political climate.  But it's really not.  Certainly, if you want to view the experience through that lens, there's a lot to take away from this detailed examination of a very small farming town.  If that's what you want to learn about - like "what are these Conservative people really like?" - you won't be disappointed, although if you're expecting an acute political polemic, you absolutely will be.
Frankly, Wiseman could've made this when Obama was still in office, and it would've been the same film.  It's a deep dive into the public life of an entire community, very much like his previous endeavors Aspen, In Jackson Heights and of course Belfast, Maine.  His cameras visit their high school, barber shop, church, tractor farm, liquor store, supermarket and of course takes us inside local government policy meetings.  There's no talk of immigration, abortion rights or transgenders in the military.  Instead we get the inside scoop on the local library trying to get a new bench that matches the one outside the bank, a big mattress sale that seems to have rented out the high school gymnasium, and an elderly Mason being honored as his wife proudly films it on her phone.  Yeah, we certainly see that the locals love their guns, but this is micro not macro.  And you'll feel closer to these people by the end no matter who you're voting for in 2020.
If you've even dipped your toes into collection Wiseman before, you know what to expect from his US releases.  Pricey burned discs only available direct from his company, Zipporah Films.  So yes, this is a BD-R and no, you don't have to be using an X-Box for that to be an issue.  Watching this film for the first time last night, I paused it about two thirds of the way through to get a drink.  I came back and it wouldn't un-pause.  Ultimately, I had to power down my player, restart the film, skip to the nearest chapter and ten rewatch about ten minutes of the film I'd just seen to get back to where I was.  That wouldn't have happened with a pressed disc.  But we've beaten this drum enough times and I'm used to it by now.
2019 Zipporah BD-R.
But as far as BD-Rs go, this one ain't bad.  Monrovia was shot on digital, so don't stress about film grain.  Clocking in under three hours, it fits fine on the completely barebones dual-layered disc.  The film is matted to 1.85:1 and detail is satisfyingly crisp and consistent.  As usual with Zipporah, there are no subtitles and no extras - not even the trailer - but we are given the option between similar sounding Dolby 5.1 and PCM stereo mixes.
And it's a good thing it's good, because it's our only option, at least in HD.  Blaq Out continues to release Wiseman's films in France, but as with his last two films, they're again going DVD only.  And anyway, I'm fine with what we're getting.  I mean, Wiseman seems dead-set against extras of any kind (Blaq Out had some filmed for National Gallery, and he made them nix them), so this was never going to be any kind of special edition.  Of course I'd prefer a pressed disc, but I appreciate that we're supporting an independent filmmaker directly by ordering direct from Zipporah, and considering the profit potential for a commercially off-the-radar film like this, we're lucky to still have the BDR option.  It's a bummer that I'm sure it's warding off more casual viewers who might take a chance on some of Wiseman's work if they were sold at mass market standards and prices, so once again, this is another release just for "us."

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