Photojournalist Mark Wexler attempts to produce a portrait of his 80 year-old father, Haskell, only to come up continuously against the veteran cinematographer’s reputation, radicalism and refusal either to compromise or to accept his son’s conservatism, and his inability to meet his exacting personal, professional and political standards.
As an angry young man, Haskell Wexler co-published a magazine entitled Against Everything. He has scarcely mellowed since, much to the chagrin of his son, Mark, who tried to follow in his father’s artistic footsteps while marching in completely the opposite political direction. However, it’s much easier to sympathise with the over-achieving father than the self-pitying offspring.
Haskell won Oscars for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Bound For Glory (1976), while his ’69 directorial debut, Medium Cool, is one of America’s landmark anti-establishment movies. He also accompanied Jane Fonda on her notorious mission to North Vietnam in 1974, and Fonda is interviewed here. Interestingly, while admiring his passion, she recognises in Haskell the same mistrust of intimacy that blighted her relationship with her own famous father, Henry.
However, Mark is so wrapped up in his own grievances that he fails to exploit these fascinatingly recurrent facets of so many Hollywood dynastic feuds. Consequently, he makes the mistake of trying to take on Haskell at his own game, and winds up having the limits of his talent exposed, as well as his insecurities.
A desperately sad look at two men whose determination to rebel against their heritage and succeed in their artform has rendered them unable to communicate. Compelling stuff, though.
Reviewed by David Parkinson