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4.0
369 Ratings

Medium Cool

Directed by Haskell Wexler
United States, 1969
Drama, Romance

Synopsis

A detached TV news cameraman and a warmhearted Appalachian woman are engulfed in a wave of fear and violence during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic National Convention, in a style where the lines between a documentary and a fictional film become blurred.

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Medium Cool Directed by Haskell Wexler

Awards & Festivals

Directors Guild of America

1970 | Nominee: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

National Society of Film Critics Awards

1970 | 3 runner-up prizes including: Best Actress

National Film Preservation Board

2003 | Winner: National Film Registry

Wexler combines fictional storytelling with documentary footage, blurring the boundary between real and fiction until the film’s conclusion—an extended sequence shot amidst the DNC riots—poses the question: when witnessing unjust violence, is it ethical to be a passive spectator?
July 20, 2016
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A movie that astutely and consistently interrogates the power of wielding a camera, Medium Cool makes its most searing impression during its most destabilized moment: Eileen, the latest of roué John’s love interests, is searching for her son in Grant Park, soon becoming part of the actual, bloody chaos that erupts as the Chicago PD attacks Yippies and other peace protesters… As unpredictable as the summer it recounts, Medium Coolendures as one of cinema’s most electric shape-shifters.
July 19, 2016
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Medium Cool stages, not so much with voguish nihilism, despite its demonstrably downbeat ending, as dispassionate vérité straightforwardness, the growing pains that strain a nation when the countercultural ideal of limitless possibility matures into something closer to political reality.
June 06, 2013
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What are people saying?

  • El Biffo's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Written/directed/photographed by Haskell Wexler, this film is loaded with so many incredible people, ideas, events and images. Half of it is staged (fabulously), half real (horrifyingly real). Look carefully and see Jesse Jackson in the crowd. Hear Mayor Daley ignore passionate protesters who ask him to stop the violence.Essential Cinema and must-see for anyone interested in the social upheaval in USA in the 1960's.

  • Jason's rating of the film Medium Cool

    One of the most important American films of all time, certainly the most radical thing at the time that a major studio had ever (fearfully, tentatively) distributed (stamped w/ X rating). This is a hybrid film as indebted to direct cinema as it was Godard (and Coutard). And: August '68. America's May. This is a dispatch from early in the era of the 'media event,' and the crystallization of an emergent fatalism.

  • smndvdcl's rating of the film Medium Cool

    The politics of spectatorship, the role of the cameraman as detached from the event as observer of the participants in frame; then becoming the observed, due to a car crash; rubberneckers become the voyeuristic observers, reversing the role of spectator and spectated. Wexler poses serious questions about our society's film ethics: a new era questioning the self-conscious postmodern complex of those raised on media.

  • Ethan's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Haskell Wexler's directorial debut proved that he wasn't only a great cinematographer but also a great filmmaker. Reality mixes with fiction in this brilliant film that perfectly captures the pulse of America in 1968. Robert Forster is also really badass in this.

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Few filmmakers, not even Kiarostami, have so deftly dealt with the issue of how real or how active cinema can be. This one stands as a troubling challenge: in a society where images are routinely and apathetically created to be consumed, will the process end with consumption, or will you do something? 4 out of 5 stars.

  • SpacePirate's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Oh Haskell, why didnt you direct more often? This is an underappreciated gem that, given the uneasy 2016 election cycle, feels like a time that could very easily repeat itself. Great editing, and being from WV, a decent portrayal of country folk without going full on redneck mocking. 5 stars, a must see, and the blu ray transfer is fantastic!

  • Marta Donati's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Incredible film that combines staged action and story with historical footage that documents the Chicago riots. Lucid, active filmmaking that uses both fiction and documentary in the best of ways.

  • Aaron Anaya's rating of the film Medium Cool

    Really a depiction of a specific time and place more than anything, with all the cameraman as spectator vs. participant stuff more of a pretext. Which is fine as 68' Chicago is fascinating and Wexler seems more interested in digression than he does with progression. Time and place wise the riots are the least interesting part as they've been shown in other films and the whole sequence feels like an arbitrary climax.

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