The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler is 93 years old today. He got his start in documentaries and that is what I love about him. I have a great love of beautiful lighting, but Wexler did something else. He brought the documentarian’s eye to the narrative film. He provides a cinéma vérité style even to work that doesn’t especially call for it. It is very much apparent in two of the bigger films that he shot: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Wexler is the cinematographer that John Sayles has used the most. It was a good match. They both are interested in social issues, even though Wexler is, at base, a spoiled rich boy. They worked together on a really great film that I discussed before in, John Sayles and Matewan. And they also made the brilliant Bush take-down, Silver City. Here is the trailer for Matewan, which provides a very good idea of Wexler’s style:
Wexler is probably best known for Medium Cool, which he also wrote and directed. Unfortunately, I have never seen it. But I’ve requested it, so when I see it, I’m sure I’ll write about it.
Happy birthday Haskell Wexler!