Tell Them Who You Are Reviews
But getting back to those issues, the documentary seeks to portray Haskell as irascible and whose left wing politics which did not stop him from working with Elia Kazan stopped him from accomplishing much more in a career full of accomplishments.(At the age of 87, apparently he is still working.) Personally, any discussion of paternal issues by the participants only serve to make me feel well-adjusted which is quite the accomplishment. Look, I am not saying we should venerate all artists or gloss over their shortcomings. It's just that I don't care.
We learn through the course of the movie that Haskell grew up ultra rich and had every prerogative of an upper class upbringing so he would naturally become a radical in the 1960s. He explains that he rebelled against the privilege and went a different way politically from his father, but in reality he never stopped living like a blue blood. And the way he treats people with nonchalant disdain belies that "power to the people" rhetoric that is his patter through most of the film. Politics for Haskell seem to be a inner fight between who he is and who he wants to be. Haskel's son has no such struggles and the father and son joke about how Mark is a crazy right-winger.
An educational and entertaining documentary.
Though I did find some of the technical miscues distracting at times, when you give the son freedom to tell his own story, a greater point is made about Mark's relationship with his father and whom his father has labeled as his surrogate father, famed-cinematographer, Conrad L. Hall.
This is a fitting tribute to a strained Hollywood relationship with an individual who is getting the lens turned on him. There are interesting relationships that develop between not only father and son, but documentarian and subject, and film maker and star. The history of Haskell Wexler and his famous friends only adds to the complexity of a relatively novice film maker, Mark S. Wexler, who is willing to fail at making a documentary so he can become closer to his aging father. There is beauty in the technical failures of the film, knowing Mark's motives.
If you liked this, also watch Nathaniel Kahn's "My Architect", a portrait of a son trying to find out about his dead, famous architect father, Louis B. Kahn.
The irony is that Mark's central message seems to be that he finds it difficult to live in the shadow of his famous father. So he responds by making a documentary (just like his dad might do) and interviewing a bunch of famous people (George Lucas, Dennis Hopper, etc.) in the process... people he surely wouldn't have had access to if not for his father.
The documentary itself is pretty uninspired, but I enjoyed the inclusion of footage from the senior Wexler's work, especially his lesser seen films.