Haskell Wexler Presents MEDIUM COOL at the Music Box

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 21:11:14 -0500 (CDT)

August 24-25, 1996
Haskell Wexler presents _Medium Cool_ at the Music Box

	Filmmaker Haskell Wexler showed a brand-new 35mm print 
of his 1969 film _Medium Cool_ to Chicago audiences as part of the 
Music Box movie theater matinee series. The highly-acclaimed film, 
probably the best-known feature dealing with the riots surrounding 
Chicago's 1968 Democratic National Convention, packed the theater's 
main auditorium for the second of its two-day run.
 	Introducing Mr. Wexler, Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington
related his own experience as a witness to the police crackdown at Balbo
Street and Michigan Ave. Citing Italian neorealist influences, he placed
Wexler's work in a vital tradition of American independent cinema from
John Cassavetes to John Sayles, with whom Wexler has closely collaborated
during his 4-decade career, highlights of which include his cinematography
of such films as _Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf_ and _Matewan_, and his
direction of _Medium Cool_.
	Wexler, humble in person, deferred disussion of his film until 
after the screening, at which point he agreed to answer 2 or 3 questions 
before shooing the audience outside where he could film individual 
reactions to the film and contemporary politics. Wexler described the 
pain of being subjected to teargas -- one of the most famous and critical 
moments of the film is during a riot when an off-screen crew member 
interrupts the narrative to shout, "Look out, Haskell! It's real!" -- 
as not only tear-producing, but skin-burning and suffocating. 
Moments later, when asked a question as to how and whether the title 
related to Marshall MacLuhan's media theory, Wexler entertained the 
audience by almost impatiently replying, "yes."

	Once outside and back behind a beloved camera, the silver-bearded Mr. 
Wexler, who had appeared uncomfortable with the microphone and spotlight 
atmosphere of the presentation, became all charm and energy, interviewing 
audience members who'd been present in 1968 and those who hadn't. As his 
thirtysomething sound crew struggled to keep up with him, Wexler teased 
political and artistics opinions from even some of the most reserved in 
the audience, and he took particular delight in giving attention to a kids 
news team there to cover the event. 

	Some who stayed were interested in continuing the Q & A session 
begun inside, asking Wexler about the film. When asked why the film has 
been so hard to find, Wexler explained that it had been long deemed "not 
commercial enough." When pressed for his view of politics and the media 
today, Wexler criticized a climate in which, as never before, the 
bottom-line prevails. As he was pressed with follow-up questions, a 
gentleman approached Wexler to remind him he was there in a reporter's 
capacity. Wexler smiled and identified the man to the crowd as his boss. 
This week Wexler is filming a story for ABC's Nightline on the two 
Chicago conventions. The three-way exchange among artist, audience and 
corporate employer was appropriately symbolic of the larger cultural 
struggle being waged here this week over the meaning and significance of 
the 1968 legacy.

	The Nightline segment is tentatively scheduled to air Wednesday 
night, August 28th.

by Steve Sposato


This news alert issued by CounterMedia, a coalition of political organizations, media groups and individuals dedicated to providing alternative coverage of the Democratic National Convention and community struggle in Chicago.
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