TELL THEM WHO YOU ARE
This documentary by Mark Wexler examines the achievements of his father, celebrated cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and the ups-and-downs of their family relationship. A stubborn character with his own strong opinions about the making of films, the elder Wexler is also a lifelong political radical frequently at odds with his more conservative son.
Review by Jake Wilson:
As showbusiness documentaries go, Tell Them Who You Are has a couple of unique twists. Twist one, its subject, Haskell Wexler, is himself recognised as one of the pioneers of modern vérité documentary. Twist two, the film is made by his son, Mark Wexler, who has followed in his father's footsteps as a director and photographer. Twist three, while Haskell is one of the most prominent political radicals of Hollywood's last few decades, Mark turns out to be a straight arrow whose proudest career achievement is filming George Bush on board Air Force One.
Sadly all these twists put together are not enough to make the movie of more than mild and occasional interest. Viewers seeking an overview of Wexler's place in cinema history are likely to be disappointed: little is said about the specifics of his political commitments or his achievements as a cinematographer, despite a few interesting footnotes (at one point, Wexler suggests that his partial colour-blindness may have helped him develop an individual eye).
In fact the main subject here is family dynamics, rather than politics or art. Judging by the autobiographical commentary, Mark suffers from something of an inferiority complex in relation to his famous father, who emerges as an irascible and rather authoritarian personality in private life. But while videotaping family squabbles may have helped both generations work out some issues, clearly the feelings of the younger Wexler remain too unresolved for him to pull the material together in any meaningful way. The result is an opportunity missed: an emotional last-minute appearance from Wexler's Vietnam-era comrade Jane Fonda dispels some of the tedium, but it's too little too late.
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TELL THEM WHO YOU ARE (M)
CAST: Documentary with Peter Bart, Verna Bloom, Billy Crystal, Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, Milos Forman, Troy Garity, Conrad L. Hall, Tom Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard, Norman Jewison, Irvin Kershner, George Lucas
DIRECTOR: Mark Wexler
SCRIPT: Mark Wexler, Robert DeMaio
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Wexler
EDITOR: Robert DeMaio
MUSIC: Blake Leyh
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/a
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Arkles Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 11, 2005 (Sydney)