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USA 1969
Directed by
Haskell Wexler
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Medium Cool

Taken as a conventional fictional narrative Medium Cool would be a frustrating affair but as a Zeitgeist document it’s a cracker.  In what in its day would have been regarded as an experimental style, the cinematographer of such classics as In The Heat Of The Night and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? turns director for this semi-documentary portrait of what was, in hindsight, the apogee of the 60s youth revolution in America, a time when holding up a V-sign was regarded as a politically-significant statement and could get you a cracked skull.

Wexler addresses a kaleidoscope of contemporary issues that include Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement,  Black Power, Big Brother surveillance, Women’s Lib with a bit of psychedelic rock thrown in for good measure in a loose of account of a television cameraman, John (Robert Forster), who in the stormy days of  the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, comes to realize that the political is personal and vice versa as he becomes increasingly aware of the implications of his work and falls for the down-home charms of Vietnam War widow Eileen (Verna Bloom), from West Virginny.

Like a happy marriage of Easy Rider and The Conversation, Medium Cool is at once a fictional story and a document of its time (the sequence in which Eileen searches for her son during the infamous Chicago Democratic Convention was all shot at the actual Convention and concurrent riots).  That it also questions the ideological and political implications of the media in particular and imagery in general in a way that would become so pervasive in the 1980s makes it a truly remarkable film.




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