Mark Wexler's cinematic blend of biography and autobiography centers on his relationship with his father, legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer and filmmaker Haskell Wexler, whose long and illustrious career is a virtual catalogue of 20th-century classics. Haskell's collaborations with such world-class filmmakers as Elia Kazan, Milos Forman, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Mike Nichols include such works as Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, American Graffiti, Coming Home, Bound for Glory and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The film features interviews with many of these artists, along with such luminaries as Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Sidney Poitier. But the true "star" of TELL THEM WHO YOU ARE is Haskell himself, a controversial, larger-than-life character who challenges his son's filmmaking skills while announcing with complete conviction that he could have done a better job directing most of the movies he's shot. As these two men swap positions on camera and behind it - sometimes shooting one another simultaneously - the film looks with honesty and compassion at their attempts to reconcile before it's too late.
Haskell Wexler was one of the most important cinematographers of the '60s and '70s who continued to work into the new century (in his eighties, no less). Besides earning two Oscars, he directed Medium Cool
, a landmark, uneasy mix of fiction and documentary, and was a visible liberal activist. He also looks to be a pain in the butt. That aspect is brought into focus with his son's Mark's curious, self-therapeutic documentary. Both a biography of the genius with the camera, and a warts-and-all portrait of his father, the film, narrated by Mark, is a cinematic way to deal with a challenging upbringing. The senior Wexler has not lost any of his vitality or gruffness--he openly challenges his son about setting up a scene or the importance of catching a sunset. Talk about reality TV! There are several famous faces interviewed about the craft of filmmaking, but the most interesting comments come from those who know very well about dealing with famous fathers (including Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas). Equal time is given for Wexler's greatest achievements (including Bound for Glory
, and American Graffiti
) as well as his failures (he was fired from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
). It's not the easiest film to watch, but filled with honest, raw emotion including how this grand cinematographer deals with his colorblindness. Genius may love company, but sympathy may be hard to find for a cameraman who states there's "never been a movie I thought I could direct it better" and a son who finds such a public way of dealing with his own demons. --Doug Thomas