"About as brutal, relevant and exploitable as they come": Medium Cool and political filmmaking

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This essay discusses Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 1969), an account of events surrounding the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, as an example of political filmmaking during the Hollywood Renaissance. Examining the film’s production history, I explore the ways in which it was shaped in response to events and discourses pertaining to class, race, gender, the Vietnam War and, more generally, American commercial cinema of the period. Popular and scholarly criticism often argues Medium Cool to exemplify Hollywood Renaissance filmmaking at its most political. However, my focus on production highlights both the specific resonances and limitations of its political critique. Certain ideas and issues were emphasised while others were curtailed and/or cut as it travelled from script to screen. I conclude with a discussion of the film’s critical reception, suggesting that commentators of the period – while often praising its formal qualities – were not always as convinced in their assessment of Medium Cool as a political text. A social document, an innovative formal experiment, a ‘fashionable’, ‘exploitable’ youth picture – various interpretations were explored within a public sphere where debates on the impact and legacy of Chicago ’68 still raged.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Hollywood Renaissance: Revisiting American Cinema's Most Celebrated Era
EditorsYannis Tzioumakis, Peter Krämer
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing Company
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-1501337871, 978-1501337888
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2018


  • political filmmaking
  • Medium Cool
  • Hollywood Renaissance
  • Haskell Wexler
  • American cinema
  • 1968


Dive into the research topics of '"About as brutal, relevant and exploitable as they come": Medium Cool and political filmmaking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this