Watch Haskell Wexler Talk the Origins of ‘Medium Cool’
Yesterday, we urged you to get excited for the Criterion Collection’s release of Haskell Wexler’s incredible 1969 political film Medium Cool. "I think I’d die if I couldn’t shoot," says Wexler, who prior to his directorial debut had already solidified himself as a brilliant cinematographer— as the man behind the camera for Heat of the Night and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
And while Medium Cool endures as a complex and revealing chronicle of a turbulent age, it feels especially relevant to a contemporary situation as well. Just as the film pulses backward and forward in time, it’s difficult to think of that summer in Chicago without also conjuring up images of the Occupy movement (one of Wexler’s most recent documentary subjects). Both episodes in our country’s history involved the theatricalization of social crisis; the former was catalyzed by television, the latter by viral videos and hashtags. Yet while the terms of representation have evolved significantly between these two eras, newer technologies likewise have their limits. Any number of public earnings reports can readily prove the ability of television and Facebook, of media old and new, to deliver us to advertisers—but it remains uncertain and unlikely that they will be able to deliver us otherwise, to set us free.