Medium Cool Blu-ray Review
“Medium Cool” is poignant, but flawed.
Written and directed by Haskell Wexler, “Medium Cool” revolves around a TV station cameraman named John (played by Robert Forster). The story is pretty simple in that we follow his personal life (which involves connecting with a single mother named Eileen) and his professional life as he covers the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention, but there’s much more going on than that.
Despite being made in 1969, “Medium Cool” still feels relevant after all of these years as it touches upon subjects such as the role of the media, war, violence, protests, riots, police, military, sex, race, revolution and TV. Furthermore, the film is at its best when it digs into these timely and deep subjects. It’s a film with a lot on its mind and that’s clearly the reason it has been so well received since its release.
What doesn’t quite work so well is the style of the film. In addition to the psychedelic 60’s weirdness that is scattered throughout, the structure of the film is often chaotic. While the fly-on-the-wall approach is purposeful at times, the combination of real-life footage shot at the Convention mixed with the film footage doesn’t quite gel. Even though it’s trying to come off as natural, it feels scripted, forced, and a little too arty for its own good. Scenes involving Eileen wandering around amidst riots and protesters have meaning, but they are so overdone and drawn out that they take you out of the movie.
Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The picture quality looks better than it ever has, but it also still maintains that gritty 60’s feel to it.
Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? The levels are all over the place. The crowd scenes are lively while other scenes sound so low that you have to crank up the audio.
* “Medium Cool” trailer.
* A booklet featuring an essay by Thomas Beard.
* “Haskell Wexler”- An interview with the writer/director/cinematographer in which he talks about his passion for filmmaking, politics, the 60’s, his life, and much more. A very revealing interview of an artist.
* “Look Out Haskell, It’s Real!”- 9 excerpts from the documentary about the making of “Medium Cool” featuring a wide range of interviews from the cast and crew. Topics range from characters, the real footage, 1968, themes, cut scenes, etc. Fascinating material.
* “Harold Blankenship”- Excerpts from another documentary titled “Sooner or Later” which revolves around Harold Blankenship (who played the young child Harold in the film) and how his life has ended up.
* “Medium Cool Revisited”- In this 30 minute extra, Haskell Wexler travels back to Chicago to cover the Occupy Movement’s protests against the 2012 NATO summit. A great extra that almost serves as a documentary sequel to “Medium Cool.” It’s fascinating to see how some things never change.
* 2 commentary tracks. One track features documentary filmmaker Paul Cronin (who did both “Look Out Haskell, It’s Real!’ and “Sooner or Later”) and the second track features Haskell Wexler, Marianna Hill, and Paul Golding. The Cronin track is informative, but monotone and overly scripted. The second track is the one to listen to as it features a ton of info about the production, cameras, stories about scenes, etc.
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