Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool

For our last assignment, we’ll be watching Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool (a link has been posted on the class webpage). Here are some supplementary resources:

Medium Cool review – a landmark fusion of fiction and documentary

In 1968 Wexler returned to his native Chicago to make Medium Cool, a landmark movie that takes its title from the debates about the media inspired by the then fashionable theories expounded by the Canadian author Marshall McLuhan (though Wexler claims he has no idea what McLuhan was talking about). Combining fiction and documentary, in a manner that consciously brings both into question, it examines the way the media operate, the responsibilities of those employed in broadcasting and news journalism, and the highly confused state of America at the height of the Vietnam war.

VICE and the Criterion Collection Present: Haskell Wexler on ‘Medium Cool’

In 1969, Medium Cool blew people’s minds because it was one of the first films to purposefully blend fact and fiction. Renowned cinematographer-cum-filmmaker Haskwell Wexler crafted a visceral, cinematic snapshot of the city of Chicago in turmoil during the riots surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

In this interview, Wexler’s reveals the power, oppression, and egos he was up against both creatively and politically in making one of Hollywood’s most prescient films. It also shows that Haskwell Wexler was—and always will be—a badass.

Below is a documentary called “Look out Haskell, it’s real!”, which details the production of Haskell Wexler‘s 1969 feature Medium Cool. It features interviews with members of the film’s cast and crew alongside critics, commentators and historical figures, and includes outtakes of Medium Cool. A 55-minute version premiered at the 2001 Edinburgh Film Festival alongside a new theatrical print of Medium Cool and with Wexler in attendance, and was broadcast on the BBC, PBS and the Sundance Channel. A version of the film appears on the 2013 Criterion Collection DVD release of Medium Cool.

The documentary, which has become more an educational project than anything else and remains a work-in-progress, was expanded in 2015 and now runs approximately six and half hours (in six parts). This is the 2001 version; the 2015 version can be found on Vimeo here.

Medium Cool: Preserving Disorder (A Criterion Collection film essay) by Thomas Beard



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