What the Critics Are Saying
Still from EX LIBRIS
"It is a soaring, Utopian mission in a documentary that builds with intellectual force and deep emotion as it shows, again and again, citizens — interested, questioning, seeking — joining together to listen to one another and to learn from one another. In “Ex Libris,” democracy is alive and in the hands of a forceful advocate and brilliant filmmaker, which helps make this one of the greatest movies of Mr. Wiseman’s extraordinary career and one of his most thrilling."
–Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"Ex Libris rolls out like a collection of short films. If you aren’t that into this special event (maybe you just don’t dig slam poetry or watching kids build robots) sit tight because in a few minutes we’re moving on. It’s like watching Wiseman skip along through the stacks of all accumulated human knowledge."
–Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian
"...as much as “Ex Libris” is a hymn to the NYPL, it’s also very much a love letter to the multi-ethnic, relatively integrated makeup of New York City."
–Jay Weissberg, Variety
"There is so much beauty and delight in Ex Libris, in fact, and so much vivid personality in all the people, that a lackadaisical viewer could be excused for summing up the film as a loving tribute. So it is, I suppose. But even at age 87, there is nothing lackadaisical about Wiseman. The sly old wizard constructs a top hat right before your eyes—and then, while you’re admiring its sheen, pulls out a 500-year-old rabbit."
–Stewart Klawans, The Nation
"Wiseman has carved out a unique niche in American documentary filmmaking and after 50 years on the job, he is a beloved, reliable observer of American society and democracy. Never talking down to his audience, he rather pulls them up to an intellectual level where other filmmakers fear to go."
–Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter
"Thanks to Wiseman’s editorial selections, Ex Libris becomes a breathtaking work of erudition, attaining Godardian or Straubian levels of quotation and association."
–Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment
"The hypnotic and thoroughly essential Ex Libris - The New York Public Library stands out as an especially definitive example of — and testament to — Wiseman’s style and mission statement. Never before have his goals as a documentarian so perfectly dovetailed with those of his subject."
–David Ehrlich, IndieWire
"The way Wiseman structures Ex Libris to reveal the inner workings and outward value of the New York Public Library exemplifies that [novelistic] approach perfectly, capturing the massive scale of the institution, but also, in its most beautiful and compelling moments, the one-on-one connections made with the people who walk through its doors."
–Corey Atad, Vice
"Frederick Wiseman's "Ex Libris: The New York Public Library" is more than a magisterial mash note to that distinguished establishment, it's a heartening examination of the vastness of human knowledge and the multiple ways we the people endeavor to access it."
–Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"Wiseman’s curiosity is infectious, and his films make you realize how rare that quality — simple human curiosity — has become in a world consumed by the narcissism of its screens. Whoever will show us to ourselves when he stops watching us?"
–Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
"...as a simple viewing experience, Ex Libris is spellbinding. Wiseman makes us feel like we’re there, watching full thoughts expressed at the casual pace of real life."
–Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice
"A film about the importance of cultural history and truth (two things deeply under siege these days), Wiseman’s epic Ex Libris might make you cry with happiness; it’s the good fight being fought. Movies aren’t usually a public benefit, much less an essential one. Here’s the exception."
–Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out