Haskell Wexler, 1922-2015

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p42247_p_v7_aaHaskell Wexler, one of the all-time great cinematographers, who picked up Oscars for shooting Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Hal Ashby’s “Bound for Glory,” died in his sleep Dec. 27 at the age of 93.

Here are just a few of the dozens of movies he lensed: “In the Heat of the Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Days of Heaven,” “Matewan,” “Colors,” “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Mulholland Falls.”

Wexler also directed the still completely amazing “Medium Cool” (1969), a feature shot in part at the the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which blended fact and fiction in a way not seen before and never quite seen since.

Wexler went uncredited (or credited as something other than cinematographer) on a couple of projects that would become part of the American cineasete’s film canon, including John Cassavetes’ “Faces” and George Lucas’ “American Graffiti,” the latter of which he was credited as “visual consultant.”

I always thought Lucas and Wexler made a fascinating team on “American Graffiti,” their only collaboration. Lucas is a dedicated technophile who dealt in fantasy and didn’t move the camera all that much, while Wexler’s work often felt much looser-limbed, with hand-held stuff and all sorts of documentaries on progressive political causes. It is fun to imagine what could have happened had Lucas aimed Wexler’s powerful eye on the Death Star or Yoda.


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