Format: 16mm Colour/Black & White
Runtime: 74 min
Paul van der Linden
Larry Kent Productions
Tom (Lanning Beckman), a young university dropout in Montreal, makes a living by selling dope and stealing from middle-aged women he has seduced. He meets Vicky (Astri Thorvik), a straitlaced young librarian, and takes her for a walk on the wild side of the hippie dropout subculture. After moving in with her, Tom steals some credit cards and takes Vicky to Toronto on a frenzied spree. By the time they return to Montreal, Vicky is totally corrupted. When she beats up a drunk that she and Tom rob one night, Tom tries to draw the line, but Vicky ignores him. She initiates a brief affair with a man she meets in a bar, but this new lover so enrages Vicky that she kills him. Later, though things seem to be resolved between them, Vicky steals Tom’s money and car keys and drives away.
The first film independent maverick Larry Kent made after moving from Vancouver to Montreal, High is a tough-minded vision of the anarchic and violent underside of the hippie cult of hedonism and free love. Though the frank love scenes and nudity gained the film a wide release in the United States (where it was titled In), they have a dreary, joyless futility that reflects Kent’s theme. Though not well-liked by most critics, High was screened at numerous festivals and offers an interesting comparison to the contemporaneous Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Pretty Poison (1968).
In keeping with Kent’s troubled history with censor boards, High was refused a screening licence by the Quebec censorship bureau just prior to its scheduled presentation at the 1967 Montreal Film Festival, and was subsequently banned in Ontario and British Columbia. The film was eventually released in a heavily censored version. With the loss of its original elements, Kent had considered High to be a missing film until recently, when a complete version was located by the National Archives of Canada. A newly restored print was screened across the country in 2003 as part of "Exile on Main Street (& Hastings): The Films of Larry Kent," a retrospective of Kent’s work curated by the Pacific Cinematheque.