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Jesus, I Love to Shoot Film: The Siskel Film Center Pays Tribute to Haskell Wexler | Features

Throughout May, the Gene Siskel Chicago Film Center will celebrate all aspects of his legacy. «Haskell Wexler: influence, influence and iconography», an eight-film retrospective of some of his best-known works (including some in 35mm) to commemorate his centenary. In addition to a perfect introduction to the man and his work, the retrospective also serves as a mini-festival of some of the most important and innovative works of his era.

Wexler was born in Chicago in 1922. After a year of college at UC Berkeley, he volunteered to join the Merchant Marine as the US prepared to enter World War II. After working to desegregate his fellow Marines and earning a Silver Star after his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of South Africa, Wexler returned to Chicago and decided to become a director. He set up a studio in Des Plaines with his father Simon and made industrial films in local factories. The studio was short-lived, but Wexler continued his filmmaking ambitions by joining the International Guild of Photographers in 1947 and working on films, television shows and commercials. (He continued to do commercials throughout his career, eventually setting up a commercial production company with fellow celebrity cinematographer Conrad Hall.) He also began making documentaries, and one of them, The Living City (1953), focused on Chicago, was nominated for an award. Oscar for Best Short Documentary.

In 1958, Wexler made his feature-length cinematography debut with The Dope Street Catering, initiating a partnership with up-and-coming director Irving Kershner when they reunited in The Bully Priest (1961) and Face in the Rain. ” (1963) and establishes the habit of working with certain directors many times. In 1963, Wexler financed and directed The Bus (1965), a documentary chronicling the journey of a group of Free Racers from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., and landed his first job as cinematographer on the big-budget studio film Elia. Kazan sensational drama «America, America». After the success of this film, Wexler began to work steadily in Hollywood, starring in the political drama The Best Man (1964), the black comedy Darling, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Mike Nichols’ hugely controversial adaptation of the play by Edward Albee. Although much of the initial public attention surrounding the film was centered on the then-shocking script language, the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, and the presence of co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Wexler’s contributions were also noted. Wexler received one of five possible Oscars for cinematography – Black and White (the last year for this category before it and the Color category were merged into one).

Wexler’s next project, 1967 «In the heat of the night» (May 8 and 19), also his first collaboration with director Norman Jewison, was even more significant and groundbreaking. The plot concerns Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), a black Philadelphia homicide investigator who teams up with Gillespie (Rod Steiger), the police chief of Sparta, Mississippi, to solve the murder of a wealthy local industrialist in the face of open racism. Having a black male at the center of a large-scale Hollywood full-color film was then still an anomaly, and filmmakers of the time did not take into account that the standard lighting techniques used by most filmmakers did not favor darker-skinned actors, often causing glare that caused they looked a little less distinct than their white counterparts. Wexler was aware of this and thought carefully about lighting his scenes in such a way as to solve this problem. He allowed Poitier to stand out as distinctly as Steiger and the rest of his co-stars, an achievement that not only made Poitier look as good as he’d ever been on screen, but subtly solidified the notion that this film was about black person. decided to stand out and do his job, regardless of what others think of him. Oddly enough, Wexler’s contributions were not among the seven Oscar nominations the film received—although he won Best Cinematography from the National Society of Film Critics—but it could be argued that his work here was the most influential of all his. works. shoots because of how it affected the filming of black actors.

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