Fred Wiseman doesn't need any help from me, but I hate to let it
seem as if silence-means-assent to the comments of my friends
PJ O'Connell and Cal Pryluck, who dismiss Wiseman, and especially
HIGH SCHOOL, as simply and obviously unethical.
Many of Wiseman's films are certainly very tendentious, comical,
heavily edited, and uncomfortable to watch. They present
ethical problems. But part of Wiseman's genius is not simply
in rendering comical or contemptible the practices of American
institutions, with all their familiar hypocrisies and oppressions,
but in making those institutions and our reaction to them and
to his films freshly problematic.
Yes, Fred Wiseman is sometimes not polite or considerate towards
his subjects. For some artists, especially artists of Wiseman's
intelligence, that may be an important social vision.
He mocks our smugness--including that of those who write books
about him! :-)