Haskell Wexler

Medium Cool tank

What if in the midst of the Ferguson protests, literally on the scene with actors intertwined with real demonstrators, someone was filming a fictional drama with a romantic plot? That would seem disrespectful, I’m sure, if only because those events have been centered around the death of an individual. It might be different if there was a Hollywood production filming in the middle of something less personal, like the Occupy Wall Street protests, as Warner Bros. had reportedly been considering doing for parts of The Dark Knight Rises. That didn’t happen, and maybe it never was supposed to, because that sounds like a logistical nightmare as far as release forms and such are concerned. Plus, in retrospect, it would have been an unfortunate cameo for the 99% given that the movie’s superhero comes off as anti-OWS, even if Christopher Nolan doesn’t mean to be critical of the movement. In spite of where the technology is at today, having a fictional film use real events as not only a backdrop but as onscreen background material is probably not possible. Sure, there’s better capability now of involving high-quality stealth cameras in something like a protest march or battlefield or other bit of history in the making, but the legalities have to be too much of a headache to deal with. We can navigate more easily through the crowds, but not through the paperwork. That is one of the reasons Haskell Wexler‘s Medium Cool, which Paramount Pictures released 45 years ago on this date, is so extremely cool. […]

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Buster Keaton appeared in some very weird movies following the advent of sound pictures. There’s that Mexican sci-fi comedy Boom in the Moon I mentioned on FSR a while back. There’s the Eastman Kodak industrial film The Triumph of Lester Snapwell, in which he plays a clumsy photographer who travels through time so he can experience an easy-use Instamatic camera. And of course all those crazy ’60s beach movies, where he performed silly slapstick involving bikinis, boobs and a politically incorrect portrayal of a Native American. But his oddest has to be Film, the 1965 short he reluctantly starred in, which was scripted by absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett (his only original written directly for the screen), helmed by theatre director Alan Schneider, produced by controversial publisher Barney Rosset, edited by Oscar-nominated documentarian Sidney Meyers (The Quiet One; The Savage Eye) and shot by legendary cinematographer Boris Kaufman (L’Atalante; On the Waterfront). Almost 50 years since its debut at the Venice Film Festival, Film is being restored by Milestone Films, the wonderful people who in recent years have resurfaced Killer of Sheep, Portrait of Jason, Word is Out and other classics in need. And its 2014 re-release will be in conjunction with a documentary feature/essay film (or “kino essay”) titled Notfilm, directed by archivist Ross Lipman. Tons of bonus footage, including deleted, alternate and “lost” scenes, has been found from the production, and we’ll get to see all that alongside interviews with Leonard Maltin, Kevin Brownlow and Haskell Wexler, among others (plus […]

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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