News and Commentary – A Semester of Seventies Films (3): Medium Cool

Week Three of the “Politics of the 70s Film” featured Medium Cool (1969), a labor of love from quadruple-threat Haskell Wexler (writer-director-cinematographer-camera operator).  I have written at length about this outstanding film previously, and more recently a short piece about Wexler as well, and so I will not repeat those efforts here.  But Medium Cool is another milestone of the New Hollywood—uncharacteristic in its overt politics, but infused with a New Wave sensibility, deeply personal, and simultaneously self-aware of its own “filmness” yet with an obsessive commitment to reality. Wexler also went beyond the ethos of location shooting, inserting his actors, and his camera, into real (and occasionally dangerous) situations as Chicago erupted in 1968.  It is a movie that rewards repeated viewing, as it has something to say about pretty much everything—race, class, violence, and, everywhere, the role of the media and its responsibilities to society (recognized by its participants or not).  All that, and a score by Mike Bloomfield, too.   

Medium Cool 60s

The New Wave, Tiny Tim, and Tet: Wexler Summarizes the 60s in a frame; Forster Channels Belmondo

 

Medium Cool Bobby

Bobby was Assassinated While the Film was in Production 

 

Medium Cool PB

Gus (Peter Bonerz), Checks the Sound (with Peter Boyle, waiting to be interviewed)

 

Medium C TV

John (Robert Forster) and Eileen (Verna Bloom) Confront the Power of Television

 

Medium C protest

Wexler had Bloom mix in with the Protestors . . .

 

Medium C Police

 . . . During What Would Later Be Described as a "Police Riot"

 

Medium C Haskell

Watch out, Haskell! That's Real Tear Gas, and Wexler was Blinded for 24 hours