starring Robert Forster, Verna Bloom, Peter Bonerz, Marianna Hill
written and directed by Haskell Wexler
by Walter Chaw No one has ever been cooler in a movie than Robert Forster is in Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool. The title comes from Marshall McLuhan's assignation in his Understanding Media of television as a "cool" medium, i.e., one that requires a more active participation to benefit from meaning--in opposition to something like film, which he identifies as a "hot" medium. It could just as soon refer to Forster's John Cassellis, however, the avatar for a new generation of existential detachment. The multifoliate rose of this contraption reveals its first complication in being a film about Cassellis, a television cameraman active at the very end of a decade of immense internal tumult in the United States, where television gradually emerged as primary witness--if not also prosecution, defense, jury, and judge--of the death of the counterculture. It's telling, too, that one of the best studies of American '60s cinema is by Ethan Mordden and titled Medium Cool--acknowledgment, along with Wexler's film, that the movies can provide "hot" context for their "cool" counterpart.