Combustible Celluloid
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With: Peter Bart, Verna Bloom, Billy Crystal, Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, Milos Forman, Conrad L. Hall, Tom Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard, Norman Jewison, Irvin Kershner, George Lucas, Albert Maysles, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Julia Roberts, John Sayles, Martin Sheen, Lee Tamahori, Studs Terkel, Haskell Wexler, Mark Wexler , Jonathan Winters
Written by: Robert DeMaio, Mark Wexler
Directed by: Mark Wexler
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual images
Running Time: 95
Date: 09/06/2004

Tell Them Who You Are (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Vexing Wexler

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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In his new documentary Tell Them Who You Are, Mark Wexler worries that his famous father, the great cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Days of Heaven, Limbo) will take over the film.

He's right to worry. From the evidence onscreen, the younger filmmaker's cinematic instincts pale beside those of his father. And yet, amazingly, the son was brave enough and wise enough to leave these conflicts in the film.

Father and son argue over small things like camera angles and when to cut, as well as larger political issues. Astonishingly, although the elder Wexler is one of the century's great liberals (he photographed Jane Fonda on her controversial trip to Vietnam) his son has become a staunch Republican, and was even invited to film George W. Bush on board Air Force One.

The younger Wexler attempts the usual celebrity interviews to flesh out this portrait of his father, but winds up using the more interesting behind-the-scenes stuff, such as Fonda and his father speaking privately without realizing that the microphone is on, or interviewing Julia Roberts for a film about Hollywood labor practices.

The filmmaker increasingly appears as a clueless clod who can't see his father's wisdom two feet in front of his face, while the cinematographer seems cranky, temperamental and argumentative. Perhaps Wexler was hoping that his film would solve their tentative relationship, but even though it doesn't, it does lay bare their miscommunication in all its gory clarity.

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