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What is needed is a response and some speculation. Besides, you already know pretty much what "Medium Cool" is about. We had a long interview with Wexler six weeks ago in The Sun-Times. The national magazines are full of photos of his characters: Advertisement Five years ago, this film would have been considered incomprehensible to the general movie audience.
I mean they understand how quickly we can catch onto things. Even five years ago, most Hollywood movies insisted on stopping at B on their way from A to C. Directors were driven by a fierce compulsion to explain how the characters got out of that train and up to the top of the mountain. For years, underground and experimental films had stopped using the in-between steps. But now, here was one of the biggest commercial movies of all time, and when Benjamin plunged onto the prone form of Mrs.
Robinson, there was a cut in mid-action to Benjamin landing belly-down on a rubber raft in a swimming pool. And no one had to explain why Mrs.
Robinson turned into a raft, or how Benjamin got into the pool. Most of us are so conditioned by the quick-cutting and free association of ideas in TV commercials that we think faster than feature-length movies can move. We understand cinematic shorthand. And we like movies that give us credit for our wit.
We liked " Bullitt " because it moved at our speed. And "Bullitt," to grab a recent example, did something else. In all movies, from Bogart to James Bond, symbols meant what they were. But in fact, the cars mostly sat there being Buicks and Aston-Martins. Advertisement "Bullitt" distilled the power of the car symbol. The "Bullitt" chase was not about what a Mustang and a Charger were -- but about what they did. And it was the doing, the action, the speed, that exploited the cars as symbols of Power.
October 1969 - Commentary Magazine
The other night, I turned on a John Wayne sea epic. In the first 30 seconds, John Wayne had given orders to burn the lifeboats for fuel and had sternly ordered a girl to stay off the bridge in time of crisis.
From these two events, it was possible to theorize that the movie was a about an endangered mission, most likely undertaken for a crucial purpose -- else why the fuel shortage?
I made these brilliant deductions on the basis of having seen countless other Grade B movies, and on a familiarity with the basic John Wayne character. Another 30 seconds probably would have revealed where the ship was headed, and why.
Conventional movie plots telegraph themselves because we know all the basic genres and typical characters. Of the group, "Medium Cool" is probably the best.
Advertisement In "Medium Cool," Wexler forges back and forth through several levels. There is a fictional story about the TV cameraman, his romance, his job, his girl and her son. There is also documentary footage about the riots during the Democratic convention. There is a series of set-up situations that pretend to be real women taking marksmanship practice, the TV crew confronting black militants. There are fictional characters in real situations the girl searching for her son in Grant Park.
There are real characters in fictional situations the real boy, playing a boy, expressing his real interest in pigeons. The mistake would be to separate the real things from the fictional.
They are all significant in exactly the same way. The National Guard troops are no more real than the love scene, or the melodramatic accident that ends the film.
Jay Anson – Wikipedia
All the images have meaning because of the way they are associated with each other. And "Medium Cool" also does the second thing -- sees not the symbols but their function. He sees their function; they are there, entirely because the National Guard is there, and vice versa.
Both sides have a function only when they confront each other. Wexler does the third thing, too. The basic story of the romance young professional falls in love with war-widow, gradually wins friendship of her hostile son is certainly not original. If Wexler had spelled it out, it would have been conventional and boring. And these are the scenes Wexler shoots.
The rest of the romance is implied but never shown; we skip B on our way from A to C.
He has made an almost perfect example of the new movie. Because we are so aware this is a movie, It seems more relevant and real than the smooth fictional surface of, say, " Midnight Cowboy. Accidents are always accidents, and they always happen for no reason at all.