“Beyond the age of innocence…into the age of awareness,” read the caption at the top of Medium Cool‘s stylized poster when the film was released 45 years ago in 1969. The line is telling in that it speaks to the real-life events at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago that are captured in the film. However, the phrase also speaks to the film itself which married documentary techniques to dramatic devices to create a new kind of movie experience in which the line between cinematic action and actual real-life drama were blurred in an intense frisson that found the felt experiences of those days bleeding — sometimes literally — betweeen the frames of the film.
Haskell Wexler is an award-winning cinematographer who lensed masterpieces like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, Days of Heaven and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. For Medium Cool Wexler took a directing and writing credit along with his work as the film’s photographer.
Wexler set out to make a very different film, but once the chaos at the convention began to unfold he grabbed his camera and had his star — Robert Forster — and his crew wade directly into the riot and into movie immortality. Here’s Wexler waxing on his career and on his crazy-brave creation, Medium Cool…