Aspen. 1991. USA. Directed by Frederick Wiseman. 16mm. 146 min.
On the occasion of MoMA’s acquisition of 36 of Frederick Wiseman’s films in 2010, a nearly yearlong retrospective of his work was organized. Among the highlights was Aspen, Wiseman’s observational portrait of the general boundary of the elite vacation destination and former mining town in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Wiseman weaves from mountainside silhouettes to bourgeois painting lessons in elaborate lodges to working-class social gatherings. As with many of Wiseman’s films, his camera seems to effortlessly reveal the complex nuances of its subjects and the spaces they exist in. At the dawn of the Clinton era, the emerging post-Reagan wealth disparity is palpable between Aspen’s working-class year-round residents and the wealthy winter vacationers. Wiseman captures telling moments and spontaneous debates regarding national topics like race, sex, class, and religion in a majestic Western setting that at times feels divorced from the rest of the country.