film 2 of 8

High School

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 10, 2015

Spectacular! Frederick Wiseman’s pioneering documentary makes more familiar late 60s film fare like Woodstock look pretty thin, pretty lightweight; here the vaunted social changes of this time are a weighty presence, but that weight is often felt through their partial absence: there’s a reference to Doctor King here, a student with beads and shades there, & a whole lot of people going about their business, which quire resembles the business we go about today;

This means that the film finds the culture at a real watershed moment, but that the people within it aren’t aware of the fact! Isn’t that true & real, & familiar to all of us; High School ends up looking very much like the writing on the wall, but even so, there’s mostly a bunch of young kids acting very young & kid-like, with their parents & teachers not appearing too much more on the ball;

One can laugh or shake one’s head, but as all of these individuals are also human, trying, & on the brink of some sort of apotheosis or even apocalypse, Wiseman manages to assemble his material in a way that communicates respect and affection, as w the disciplinary official whom we first find acting like a total jerk, then later encounter acting sincerely the decent advocate for the downtrodden, or the amazing Home Ec lady who lovingly tells her young female charges how fat they are …