High School

Screening on Film
Directed by Frederick Wiseman.
US, 1968, 16mm, black & white, 75 min.
Print source: Zipporah Films

From the chaos and controversy of Titicut Follies, Wiseman moved on to the comparatively placid hallways of public high school for his second film. Yet from his fragmented sequences, visual puns, unsympathetic close-ups, and witty cuts, he produces an ultimately scathing evaluation of North East High School in Philadelphia, considered one of the top schools in the city at the time. Droning an incessant message of control, repression and conformity to a generally listless student body, teachers and administrators prowl the hallways, ridicule independent thought, dictate, manipulate, confuse and simply bore the teenagers into submitting to a generic existence. By the film’s end, the familiar institutional languor and disciplinary monotone of public schools offers a shockingly smug confirmation of its own moribund purpose.

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2018 Norton Lectures in Cinema:
Frederick Wiseman

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Frederick Wiseman, Institution U.S.A.

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Tabooed Initiation: Two Early Films by Mou Tun-fei