Since the news broke yesterday that legendary cinematographer and filmmaker Haskell Wexler had passed away at the age of 93, a flood of tributes has been pouring in from across the industry. The two-time Oscar winner — his black-and-white photography on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966) remains a gold standard for the medium — worked with many of the greats across his nearly seven decades in the business, from Hal Ashby to John Cassavetes, Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols, Milos Forman and Terrence Malick.
Wexler was also a director himself, and his 1969 debut “Medium Cool” represents one of the finest dramas ever made centered around American television. Blending fiction and non-fiction in both storytelling and form — it uses an aesthetic akin to cinéma vérité-style documentaries — the movie revolves around a TV news cameraman (Robert Forester) whose loyalty to his station is tested after coverage surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention is mishandled. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2003 and has been a staple of the Criterion Collection since 2013.
In September 2014, Wexler joined VICE’s ‘Conversations Inside the Criterion Collection’ for a 15-minute short that explored the “power, oppression and egos” that went into creating his landmark first feature. There are few better ways to remember the late Wexler than by listening to his genius firsthand, and the video above is chock full of tidbits that cement why Wexler will always be one of the best in the business.