Exclaim!

Tell Them Who You Are

Mark Wexler

Tell Them Who You Are
No self-respecting cineaste has anything but love for the images of cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who shot the films of Forman, Ashby, Malick, Jewison and numerous other big names of the '60s and '70s. But that love will be shaken by this disillusioning documentary, which shows the dark side of his filmmaking and apparent social conscience. Directed by his son, Mark, the film shows the elder Wexler to be a self-mythologising gasbag who can't see past his own arrogant desires. Conceited beyond all measure, he has little respect for his son's project and repeatedly tries to direct from the other side of the lens. One unpleasant scene has Haskell berating Mark for the latter's attempted set-up for an interview, one which Papa Wexler had personally ordered. Viewed through this lens, it's hard to take his loud liberal opinions seriously; though I'd be the first to decry Mark's small-c conservatism, it's not difficult to see how he might have been driven to it by the ravings of his overbearing father. Attention is lavished on Dad's rebellion against his privileged upbringing, his attempts to become an independent filmmaker, his two films as director (the quasi-documentary classic Medium Cool and the forgotten pro-Sandinista epic Latino) and the legendary difficulty that got him chucked from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but the image is one of a self-impressed man who can't relate on a one-to-one level. Mark doesn't exactly pull the trigger on a man for whom he still has feelings, but he sure leads you to the gun, and your impression of one of the great lensmen will never be the same again. By the time he's forced to sell his equipment, you'll be quietly cheering to yourself. (Th!nk)


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