Medium Cool Movie Review

Where is the line between fantasy and reality? Check out Medium Cool and you'll have trouble finding it. Pioneering cinematographer Haskell Wexler got the bright idea that the 1968 Democratic National Convention would be a hotbed of riots (with Vietnam in its worst years, MLK recently assassinated, and a growing movement fed up with the government) and he was right. Wexler decided to make a (fictional) movie set during all of this -- but rather than wait until it was over and done with, he took a group of actors to ground zero, tossed them in among the cops and the protesters, and had them "act."

The result is one of the most vibrant and eye-opening films ever made, a bit of fantasy that seems devastatingly real -- because, in large part, it is.

Robert Forster smolders as Chicago TV cameraman John Cassellis, jaded but calmly professional as he coldly documents car wrecks and generous cab drivers, waiting for the Convention to arrive. Meanwhile, he has a few romps in the hay, with a sultry nurse named Ruth (Marianna Hill) and a single mother from Appalachia named Eileen (Verna Bloom), caring for her son in one of the worst slums of Chicago. As Cassellis becomes entwined with Eileen, becoming a surrogate father for the boy, he loses his job and apparently his mind as well -- all while the politically-charged world he lives in begins to melt.

Wexler's creation is masterful -- a hyperrealistic look at the world that should make Robert Altman (who, for some reason, gets massive praise for the dull Nashville) hang his head in shame. While the circumstances around the making of the film itself is enough to elevate the movie to classic status, the end result is equally impressive. Notably, Wexler introduces some of the best music cues ever -- with a roller derby's audio track slipping over into a sex scene, as well as "Happy Days Are Here Again" playing over the riots (beat that, Tarantino!). The story -- about a jaded America during the 1960s -- has become more relevant than ever.

Originally rated X, Medium Cool has just been reissued on DVD, complete with a telling commentary from Wexler, consulting editor Paul Golding, and actress Hill. Wexler's context is outstanding -- but Hill, who is only in about 5 minutes of the movie, has little to do but cringe and squeal when her (fully) nude scene pops up. Oddly, that makes it even more compelling.

A must-own for any cineaste.


Medium Cool Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 1969


More Robert Forster

Automata Trailer

Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) is working as an insurance agent for ROC Robotics Corporation in the dystopian world of 2044. In a world where human...

Olympus Has Fallen Movie Review

As this massive blockbuster thriller progresses, it's impossible not to become amused by how ridiculous its script becomes. Because the production values are first-rate, with...

Olympus Has Fallen Trailer

President of the United States Benjamin Asher has had enough trauma while being in office, and things are about to get a whole lot worse....

The Descendants Trailer

Matt King is a Hawaiian land baron who has never had time for his two daughters; rebellious teenager Alexandra and her younger sister Scottie. But...


Rise: Blood Hunter Movie Review

I suppose, if anything, the fact that there is a new vampire flick out every month suggests that vampires -- in their black leather incarnation...

Dragon Wars Movie Review

If you happen to gravitate toward a movie about legions of resurrected dragons smashing their way through California because of its innate, pleasurable simplicity, Hyung-rae...

Firewall Movie Review

There is now practically a subgenre of films in which the protagonist's family is kidnapped and the bad guys use that leverage to get him...

Like Mike Movie Review

A cardboard Cinderella story, involving a pair of magic basketball sneakers and the hopes and dreams of an orphaned black youth, the script for Like...