News And Commentary – Haskell Wexler Est Mort

The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler died on December 27, six weeks shy of his ninety-fourth birthday.  Over the course of his long and extraordinary career, which straddled documentary and fiction films, Wexler was probably best known for his incisive photography on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Mike Nichols, 1966).  Nominated for five academy awards, he won twice, for Woolf and for the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (Hal Ashby, 1976).  Other notable efforts included his work on America, America (Elia Kazan, 1963), In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967), Coming Home (Ashby, 1978), Matewan (John Sales, 1987) and Colors (Dennis Hopper, 1988).

Wexler’s most important movie, however, was Medium Cool (1969), a deeply personal film that he also wrote and directed – and which was one of the landmarks of the New Hollywood (and as such singled out for especially high praise in Hollywood’s Last Golden Age).  I have discussed Medium Cool at length here; the Criterion Collection DVD has a host of terrific extras

Wexler was a revered figure, both for the quality of his work and also for his dyed-in-the-wool political commitment, which were passionately held but lightly worn, with the friendly carriage of a regular guy trying to do the right thing.  Tributes around the web will not be hard to find.  The New York Times obituary is excellent, and those who are fond of Facebook will have little trouble tracking down a lovely personal memorial by his niece, Daryl Hannah (who knew?)  A short interview about shooting Virginia Woolf can be found here; a longer discussion, more general but focused on Medium Cool, here

As with many of the old greats, the likes of Wexler will not be easily replaced.