Friday, 22 January 2016

Best of Enemies (2015) is a great intro to the classic Medium Cool (1969)

The best documentary of 2015 nicely sets up a criminally neglected movie classic from 1968.

Best of Enemies a brilliant new documentary showing how the drama of 1960s American politics
and how it's treatment in the news media feeds right back into events today. Both show the central role the media had portraying and reacting to the apparent mass break down in law and order in the United States during the Vietnam era, particularly around the violent confrontations outside the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968.

Best of Enemies covers the red hot political confrontation taking place on TV screens as the two leading thinkers on the left and right of the political divide slowly lose their composure over a series of live televised debates. The documentary commendably stays politically neutral, further illustrating the gulf between debate then and the partisan shouting matches between intellectual pygmies we see today.

Amongst some of the footage shown in Best of Enemies are clips from a contemporary movie, almost a semi-documentary itself, Medium Cool.

Having just seen it Medium Cool has to be the best movie I'd never previously heard of.  I don't know what Medium Cool is comparing itself against but from here it looks a lot more than 'medium'.

Beautifully shot against the actual settings and events being reacted to in Best of Enemies it has a great non obtrusive soundtrack played into  hyper real locations. This movie is shot on the hoof, actually on location in the middle of history nearly half a century ago and yet still looks like Terence Malik's Days of Heaven (without the glacial pace). It's like standing on the street corners yourself - in fact hold your nose when your cameraman to gets tear gassed at about 1hour35. You will see blood, and it won't be fake.

It features a star performance from a young Robert Forster who I only know from The Black Hole, Jackie Brown and Breaking Bad. After Medium Cool I'm even more amazed he wasn't a major Hollywood star, here he looks like a young Brando. You'll also be able to pick out in the female lead the haunting face of Marianna Hill from her harrowing starring role in High Plans Drifter.

Negatives? If you've seen this era of movie you'll see the ending from a mile off but it oddly compliments similar material rather than detracts.

While I'm on the subject I really should have blogged my experience watching Two Lane Blacktop, a another ancient movie whose startling authenticity similarly blew me away.

You begin to wonder if all that time just watching Easy Rider over and over again was time well spent.

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