Reviewed byjonathan-577Vote: 9/10/10
A rare directorial outing by all-time great cinematographer Wexler,this is generally acknowledged as the most politically radical filmever produced by a major studio. In freewheeling, semi-improvised,ideologically calculated scene after scene, it depicts an apoliticaltelevision cameraman's awakening of consciousness and abandonment ofthe role of passive observer. The class and race politics are fournotches up on any comparable contemporary studio feature, that's forsure - with the surprisingly patient explanation of how 6-o-clock-newsideology oppresses minority communities, leading in to a love affairwith a working-class single mother instead of some vanguard hippie, youcould even argue that this Americanization of Godard has betterideological legs than the master himself. Sure it meanders a tad, andthe stylistics can date, but there's nothing else in any movie everthat compares with the climax, as the actors make their way throughactual documentary footage of the 1968 Democratic convention andattendant street battles. I mean, how did such a finely balanced mix ofintegrated narrative, Euro-tics, American underground film andstraight-up documentary even occur to them? And how did they thenmanage to actually pull it off with honors? Pretty damned impressive.
Reviewed bynicjayteeVote: 9/10/10
Absorbing, thought provoking and, above all, a unique record of animportant "place & time", why "Medium Cool" still fails to gain theattention it deserves remains one of life's great mysteries.
First off, it's a pretty good if somewhat disjointed story two"world-wise" middle class news reporters are sent to film the 1968Democratic Convention in Chicago and become unwittingly involved in itspolitical demonstrations, the inner city problems that haveprecipitated them, and the lives of a single mother and her young sonin this harsh, confusing and seriously under-privileged world. Itsacting, in particular from Robert Forster as the lead reporter and the13 year old Harold Blankenship as the son, is excellent and at times soeffective that it's difficult to remember you're watching a rigidlysequenced film rather than a social documentary. And, it's overlaidwith some quite stunning cinema-photography from director HaskellWexler, one of America's very best exponents of the art, backed up by aperfectly pitched late 60's soundtrack.
Good enough so far, but that's just the start. Add-in its extensivelive footage from the streets of Chicago as the riots develop, taken bythe film's camera crew as they themselves are caught-up in a very"real" political drama, its ominous sequencing of the build up ofevents from a fun "day in the park" for the hippies/yippies to serious"police state" level violence, its equally chilling images of what wasgoing on inside the Convention Hall while all of this was taking place,and the clever and disturbing scenes of the mother's desperate searchfor her lost son as Wexler films her within the increasingly anarchiccrowds of demonstrators & troops actually on the streets at the time,and you've got something very special.
Part film and part documentary, not all of what you think is "real" in"Medium Cool" is, and the lines between live and acted scenes aresometimes confusingly and frustratingly blurred, as in the famous callfrom one of the camera crew of "look out Haskell this is real" as atear gas canister lands in front of them, which was in fact over-dubbedafterwards. But that's the whole point of the film as the final, almoststartling scenes reveal. How far is the media in control? Is whatyou're seeing real, distorted or contrived? Wexler's brilliance is totake this underlying theme and to mould it into a fascinatingexploration of inner city life, American society in a period of hugechange, and the power/needs of the media in a TV dominated world,while, in parallel, producing a gripping record of what it's like to bein the centre of a demonstration that's spiralling out of control.Juxtaposing the impersonality of reporting with the very personalsituations that are involved, it raises a whole series of questions onthe way without falling into the trap of most films of the era intrying to ram home too many answers. And, as a result, it remains asrelevant today as it did then.
Quite rightly regarded as one of the best "counter culture" films ofthe late 60's and much richer and more thought provoking than thisclassification usually implies, it remains one of the most under-ratedfilms out there.
Reviewed byMARIO GAUCI (firstname.lastname@example.org)Vote: 8/10/10
A brilliant film and a seminal one - a product by a major Hollywoodstudio handled in cinema-verite' style; besides, the various issues itraises - social, political and media-related - have scarcely beentreated with such directness and power. The lack of star names in thecast (Peter Boyle, who appears briefly, was not yet established and,even if he had debuted in John Huston's REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, lead Robert Forster's role was originally intended for JohnCassavetes) certainly helps sell its inherent documentary feel.
Though, understandably, most meaningful to people who witnessed theseturbulent times first-hand, and Americans in particular, despite itsspecific time-setting - Chicago 1968 (partly shot at the actualDemocrats convention site, the film proved prophetic because the scriptinvolved riots breaking out...which is what actually happened!) - manyof its concerns are still very much with us!! Fascinating therefore ifslightly overlong - the subplot involving Verna Bloom and HaroldBlankenship feels a bit like padding at first (and was actually whatremained of a proposed film, with animal interest, about a poor countryboy's adjustment to city life!)...but, ultimately, its point is madeduring the film's latter stages when Bloom goes to look for her missingson - creating an indelible image of a perplexed figure (incongruouslydressed in a bright yellow outfit) getting embroiled in all thecommotion hitting the streets at that same moment. This, however,results in a goof involving the unexplained presence very early on ofBloom (already wearing the yellow dress but whose introduction properin the film takes place quite a bit later!) at a cocktail party formembers of the press - a sequence intended to immediately precede theriots but which was then pushed forward during editing, so as to dealstraight off with the film's major theme of media responsibility! Thetragic yet ironic ending - presented as matter-of-factly as any of thenews items covered by dispassionate TV cameraman Forster - is veryeffective.
This is certainly renowned cinematographer Wexler's most significantdirectorial effort; his camera-work (some of it hand-held) is simplyincredible, as is Paul Golding's editing (which must have been quite aheadache and, in fact, he mentions in the Audio Commentary that severalscenes remained on the cutting-room floor; pity they weren't availablefor inclusion on the Paramount DVD - nor, apparently, were the rightsto the 2001 documentary about the film, LOOK OUT HASKELL, IT'S REAL:THE MAKING OF 'MEDIUM COOL'!). Also essential to the unique texture ofthe film is the fantastic soundtrack (mostly by Mike Bloomfield butalso featuring songs by Frank Zappa, among others).
John Cassellis is the toughest TV-news reporter around. His area of interest is reporting about violence in the ghetto and racial tensions. But he discovers that his network helps the FBI by letting it look at his tapes to find suspects. When he protests, he is fired and goes to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.