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February 1993


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"P.J. O'Connell (PA) 814-865-3333" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 26 Feb 1993 21:38:00 EST
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Brief comment: Wiseman's HIGH SCHOOL is a nasty little hatchet job on a
rather ordinary mid-60s high school (Northeast H.S., Philadelphia); the kids
are dolts, the editing is snotty, and the critics have never seemed
concerned with whether HIGH SCHOOL bears **any** resemblance to the high
The film is a preview of Wiseman's favorite technique of distortion, which
he used rather adroitly for a number of years and films; he's mellowed a bit
with his later efforts.  He uses a "mosaic" format (Bill Nichols' term) of
bits and pieces, put together with an apparent randomness that breaks from
conventional documentary formatting in such a way as to disorient the
majority audience and forced them (the need for closure, right) to "jump to
the nearest available conclusion"--which Fred the Elf has carefully prepared
for them.  The worst example, to me, is PRIMATE; the most neutral of the
early films is HOSPITAL.  Some of the later films--THE STORE, MISSLE, NEAR
DEATH) are more mature; fewer cinema-antics.  He gets truly great material
(with the unacknowledged contributions of his cameramen), but watch the
ROGER AND ME is a great film; the best bad example I've found.  I use it to
illustrate everything--self aggrandizement, irrelevancy, critical blindness.
It's got it all.