It's an odd Eden that epic documentarian Frederick Wiseman finds at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street on Manhattan's West Side: it is the third building to hold the title of Madison Square Garden, and a carnival of earthly and unearthly delights.
Vast, exhaustive, and powered by Wiseman's signature fly-on-the-wall cinematic style, <i>The Garden</i> roams from the sawdust of the circus to the come-ons at a job fair; from the strategy sessions of Garden management to a Bible class attended by NBA all-stars. Wiseman, always observing, always exploring, always lets his camera and the voices of his subjects tell their stories, large and small. The variety and number of events held annually at the circular landmark are themselves amazing—from the cat show to the dog show to an NAACP convention to a live-action <i>Sesame Street</i> extravaganza.
The Garden is portrayed as a universe unto itself. But it also serves, courtesy of Wiseman and his extraordinary direct-cinema vision, as a kind of metaphor for modern urban life, a building where people share ambitions and aspirations, the euphoria of victory or the mystery of a moment, and where they can share the same space and emotions but remain oblivious to each other all the same.