‘Medium Cool’ for the Medium Young
Variety, 13 August 1969
One of the compelling scenes in Medium Cool, the semi-documentary feature about the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago (and first film by cameraman turned writer-director, Haskell Wexler), makes Mayor Richard J. Daley the heavy by juxtaposing violence in the streets and rioting with quick cuts to conventioneers hailing Daley as a Presidential candidate.
“But Daley isn’t the ‘enemy’” says Wexler. “It’s the establishment we were trying to hit at and question.” Wexler contends that the rioting and violence was all part of his script before the convention began. “We anticipated it and used it in our story.”
Medium Cool concerns a television cameraman who discovers that he’s been used as a spy for the police – just as the black militants had been accusing him.
The subject matter and form of the film, along with the very left political implications, make Medium Cool a film which many older people might find “difficult to understand.” But Wexler feels the film will find an audience among young adults and students.
The director test screened the film before turning it over to Paramount Pictures. He screened it in a private projection room, and had showings at a theatre in Westwood, California, and a theatre in the San Fernando Valley. Paramount also sneaked the film twice. Wexler admits that after his personal tryouts he made several cuts and that in some instances he had to add more detailed exposition.
The director also said that as part of his agreement with the National Guard Riot Training division he provided about 1,000 feet of film to them for their own use.
“Although it was a 100% union film, it cost considerably less than $1,000,000.” In detailing his deal with Par he said they approved the script and gave him “a negative pick up deal.” He had to make the film with his own money, but they agreed to pay him for the completed film and give him a percentage of profits if they released it.
He conceded that there was no clause which would force Par to release the film once they bought it.
Next on Wexler’s schedule is A Really Great Adventure. No distrib is set. Story concerns a couple who win a contest and get to make their own film. They decide the actors who are killed in the film should really die.
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