Medium Cool Movie Review
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.