Park Life


More haiku than ballad, Sarah Price’s hour-long doc Caesar’s Park (at the Pioneer Theater) captures the lyricism in Wisconsin’s changing seasons and the beauty in a clutch of clapboard houses. In 1995, Price moved to the Milwaukee neighborhood that gives the film its name, and for four years filmed her elderly neighbors. Richard stalks the Oldsmobile-peppered streets with his camera. Preternaturally chipper Lois cares for her mother, cranking her into bed with a manual home-care crane. Retired meter reader Don tends to his garden (his onions failed to grow last summer). Charles, shy and dapper with Chuck Berry pomade, has a penchant for plucking tunelessly on his collection of guitars. The most robust character is Genevieve, an irascible Polish war bride with a crass wit. When Price, often appearing in the frame with boom operator headphones, asks how her summer is going, Genevieve barks, “Sucks!” There’s a sense of dislocation in this melancholy portrait of community; everyone favors the back porch instead of the front. By the end, the film resonates with a quiet loneliness. And if there’s poetry in real life, it’s left in free verse.