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It’s 1968, and the whole world is watching. With the U.S. in social upheaval, famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Days of Heaven) decided to make a film about what the hell was going on. His debut feature, MEDIUM COOL, plunges us into that moment. With its mix of scripted fiction and seat-of-the-pants documentary technique, this story of the working world and romantic life of a television cameraman (Jackie Brown’s Robert Forster) is a visceral, lasting cinematic snapshot of the era, climaxing with an extended sequence shot right in the middle of the riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. An inventive commentary on the pleasures and dangers of wielding a camera, MEDIUM COOL is as prescient a political film as Hollywood has ever produced.
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I saw 'Medium Cool' the week it opened and I probably wasn't the only one who considered it a revolution in film making and figured it would be the first of many such films that tied documentary and narrative film together, but sadly there were no more 'Medium Cool's' to follow, or no more 'Easy Rider's' either.
The Amazon review is totally uninformed in describing what happened in Chicago. The only 'riot' that happened were the police riots that repeatedly attacked the protesters and anyone else who happened to be in their way. And very few of us considered ourselves to be hippies by that time. I know because I was there and that's me on the cover of the DVD carrying a red flag. Interestingly Haskell -- who I became friends with many years later -- is still at it. I was marching down Hollywood Boulevard in an antiwar protest at the beginning of the Iraq war and looked up just in time to see Haskell in the crowd pointing his DVD camera at me. There was no tear gas this time, no rioting cops, and no machine guns set up on the streets. I wasn't carrying a red flag and my hair has long since turned to gray, but some some basic things never change.
This picture tells it like it was as only the world's greatest cinematographer could have done it. Amazon calls it a 'curiosity' and maybe it is, but it's also an authentic historical document executed with artistry and passion and is every bit as watchable as it was back then. I recommend it especially for this wonderful and brave new generation who are carrying on the great American tradition of dissent in these troubled times.