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Tell Them Who You Are
Time Out says
This testy portrait of Haskell Wexler – firebrand lefty cinematographer (‘Days of Heaven’, ‘American Graffiti’) and sometime director (‘Medium Cool’) – by his son, Mark, offers a similar vein of behind-the-camera personal catharsis to Nathaniel Kahn’s recent ‘My Architect’ (about his dad, Louis) – only here the film’s subject is very much alive, and telling a put-upon son how to do his job better from in front of the lens. Now 80, Haskell is a handful: he tells his exasperated but mostly patient son not to ‘show and tell’, barking ‘don’t direct me, just do it!’ But it’s this father-son antagonism which makes the film so intriguing. The additional biographical stuff, although bolstered by a stellar line-up of inter-viewees (Paul Newman, George Lucas, Jane Fonda et al), is clumsily presented and never more than adequate.
What’s more interesting is the opportunity that both Haskell and Mark take to try to build bridges between the arrogant, radical father (‘I don’t think there’s been a movie I’ve been on that I wasn’t certain I could direct better’) and the bitter, conservative son. It’s Haskell whose fiery presence gives the film its energy – all credit, though, to Mark for embracing their difficult relationship so honestly. We learn that Mark’s biggest project prior to this one was a pedestrian TV doc about the workings of Air Force One, and he’s admirably honest about his own limited skills as a filmmaker. But it’s arresting and moving stuff, with just a hint of awkward voyeurism when the pair visit their respective mother and ex-wife, lingering in the throes of dementia in a home.