I got back from India over two weeks ago but since then I've pretty much stopped reading and stopped writing and all but stopped seeing movies. What have I been doing instead, you might ask. Well. Mostly sleeping a lot. It's turning out to be a very time-consuming hobby.
So anyway. I saw this movie almost two weeks ago and I've taken a lot of naps since then so the details are a little foggy. It's a documentary about a famous cinematographer named Haskell Wexler, which might not have been that interesting except that it was made by his son, Mark. And even that might not have been particularly interesting except that Haskell and Mark have a really lousy relationship. And strained relationships played out in front of the camera almost always make for interesting viewing. They form almost the entire basis for reality TV, for crying out loud. Though I suppose eating live insects is right up there too.
Haskell Wexler is a mean old liberal activist tough guy who still works out hard in the gym at age 82. When fully dressed, he appears to still have the lithe, athletic body of a young man, but when he takes off his shirt, we see that there's actually a saggy-skinned, mole-covered old man living underneath. But even though his body may be turning on him, his spirit is still hard as nails. Despite his age, he's still capable of dominating and intimidating his soft, feckless son, Mark. (Ever since I learned the word "feckless", I can't seem to get enough of it.)
Mark is the complete opposite of Haskell. He's a staunch conservative who's quite proud of a documentary he made on Air Force One with George W. Bush. Much to Haskell's amusement, he's also dreadfully afraid that accompanying his left-wing father to a radical political gathering might mess up his prized government clearance and jeopardize his future projects. What a Caspar the friendly Milquetoast.
Though I found Mark to be a whining weenie of a man, I was still bothered by Haskell's total contempt for him. Though I generally respected Haskell for his strong beliefs and outspokenness, his insensitivity towards Mark often seemed like bullying. He criticized Mark's filmmaking techniques in almost every scene and even refused to sign the waiver to allow the movie to be released until after production was completed and he was able to view the finished product himself.
In one difficult-to-watch scene, a father-son power struggle ensues in a San Francisco hotel room following a peace rally. Haskell calls Mark into his room to film what he considers to be an important post-rally thought which he's just formulated. Mark asks Haskell to move out to the balcony so he can film the scene in front of the sunset. Haskell refuses, saying the content of his speech is more important than the pretty backdrop. Mark asks him to move anyway. Voices keep getting louder and more insistent and eventually Mark's pathetic pleading and Haskell's adamant refusal became so unpleasant that I had to cover my face to try to block out the fighting until they stopped. And after all that, we never do get to see what Haskell's big thought was.
One cool thing about this movie for me is that it has a clip of Haskell standing outside of the Music Box theater which is where I watched the movie. But to make things even freakier, a later scene shows Haskell speaking to a crowd while standing on the stage of the Music Box theater where the image of him standing on the stage of the Music Box theater was currently being projected on the screen that I was watching. Whoa. Recursive.
I found this to be a very interesting movie, albeit a little uncomfortable to watch at times. Haskell Wexler is a worthy documentary subject in his own right, but for me, the messed up dynamics of the filial relationship is the real draw. It's somewhat reassuring to know that not everyone else in the world "grew up Brady".