Archive: Fall 2005
Introduction by Mark Goble,
Assistant Professor of English, Ph.D.,
Frederick Wiseman’s breakthrough debut Titicut Follies took a naked portrait of the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane. Eschewing any added effects of directorial presence such as voice-over narration, interviews or added music, Wiseman spearheaded the ‘cinema-verite’ movement of the 1960s. Wiseman followed Titicut with High School, creating a similar naked portrait of another American institution of control and order. Shot at a 4,000 student school in Philadelphia, Wiseman’s hand-held camera takes long, unflinching gazes at the conflicts between teachers, students, parents and administrators. The line between learning and discipline becomes subject to debate, as does the continual exploration of what constitutes objective observation and subjective opinion in documentary film.
“Who is the greatest filmmaker of the last 30 years? If the criteria includes the most masterpieces or the highest sustained level of accomplishments, maybe we should … be talking about Frederick Wiseman.”
—Phillip Lopate, New York Times
“As a expression of existential exhaustion and despair, the landscape of High School is as eloquent as any dreamed up by Camus or Sartre.” —Steven Vineberg, The New York Times
High School was selected to the National Film Preservation Board, USA in 1991.
1968 • USA • 75 minutes • 16mm • Black and White
Directed by Frederick Wiseman