Frederick Wiseman's High School is still as fresh and observant as ever. This is a documentary about the institution of the high school, not any individual characters. Wiseman utilizes cinéma vérité conventions to create a reality that is, in the words of Jean-Louis Baudry, "more than real."
What a freak show of a movie. Kind of truly terrifying. The attitudes and ideals these people are implanting on children are completely insane. Once again Wiseman has managed to really impress me. His camera feels as if it burns right through these people's souls. Funny that this High School felt more sterile and scary than the hospital or the mental institution Wiseman also brilliantly captured.
Wiseman manages to capture the intricate beliefs, attitudes, values and social undercurrents that are present in U.S.A.'s late 60's - made all the more visible in an educational institute whose sole purpose is to perpetuate and mold these beings into something society deems as 'normal'. My only concern: the comportment/attitude of certain individuals was noticeably influenced by the presence of the camera.
The mechanisms and institutions of childhood development all conspire to do what society does: to instill deference to authority, suspicion of dissent, intolerance of idiosyncrasy, and an attitude of uniform compliance to accepted norms with the instinct to segregate and deride anyone who deviates from them. Wiseman captures every aspect of this process merely by caring to observe it. The ending is heartbreaking.
I don't really know how to talk about Wiseman yet, he's that cosmically good. Public high school hasn't changed much, apparently, beyond the rise of political correctness and the drop in literacy (the latter of which can partly be blamed on some of the problems diagnosed here).
The uncomfortable ogling of high school girls in gym shorts sucks, but this is probably the best anti-American documentary I have seen. Authority figures struggling to maintain control by any means necessary, warding off promiscuity at all turns, girls being taught how to walk properly by a woman who calls out a girl for being heavy only to call herself "a fat old lady," and the valorization of "our boys in 'Nam."
Whoa. Just caught a 35mm print of this at Cinefamily here in Los Angeles, and I feel like my entire idea of documentaries has been altered straight down to its DNA. The use of long lenses to prevent interfering with the camera's subject is one thing, but Wiseman seems to float as if completely invisible to the films cast. He is a literal fly on the wall. FREDERICK WISEMAN IS A FLY WITH CAMERA EYEBALLS.