John works as a news cameraman, routinely filming gruesome scenes of violence like car crashes or riots with a chilly detachment. Specializing in violence and racial tensions that arise in the ghettos, John has recorded his fair share but entering the late 1960's, John's consciousness about the implications of his job as a cameraman begin to come into question. This tipping point occurs when after filming a verbal dispute by black militants on the media's increasing racism, John is instructed to turn his footage over to the FBI. John vehemently refuses, getting fired in the process. Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool is an awkward film from a narrative perspective, mainly due to its blending of fiction and non-fiction elements. The film combines cinema verite and "talking heads" type documentary footage with fictional scenes between actors to encapsulate this volatile time in United States history with truly unique and fascinating effect. I personally found the film's pacing to be a little tepid, and some of the character-building subplots tedious, but the message in Medium Cool is very poignant. Thematically this is a film about American culture's infatuation with violence and how the media's sensationalism of these acts only further breeds this obsession. Haskell wants to make it clear that the media and their perspective is incredibly powerful and terrifying, able to sway public opinion and perception quite easily. Through Joe's character we see a man who can no longer detach himself from the equation, questioning the psychological power his images can have on America's culture. Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool is a film that takes place in a very specific time and place in American history but considering the current media climate in this country it's just as poignant and important today.
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