For his ambitious, clever, and stylish look at adolescence in the film Teenage (based on the book Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture by Jon Savage), filmmaker Matt Wolf looks at the specific moment in world history when the youth of the world were first allowed to enjoy their formative years.
Comprised almost exclusively of archival footage and voice over narration culled from firsthand accounts, several very well staged silent re-enactments designed to look period authentic, and diaries that have been left behind (including the voices of Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw), Wolf picks up his look at the wild and wooly teenager starting in 1904 with the abolishment of child labour and cuts his film off just after the end of World War II.
The effect is almost primordial, like watching an entire subculture rise from beneath the surface of the earth to become a major social, political, and economic force that continues to be misunderstood to this day. Wolf takes Savage’s already well researched tome and flips it into an elegantly constructed pastiche set to a wonderful score, courtesy of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. Wolf wonderfully outlines the rise of youth groups, the growing political unease among the young following centuries of shabby treatment, budding teenage sexuality, the power of music, and in one hard hitting aside, the first ever publically gossiped about socialite junkie (Britain’s Brenda Dean Paul).
Wolf follows his complex timeline perfectly, realizing there are bigger issues in play than simply showing a cause and effect relationship to world events. It blends the artistic, impressionistic, and historic quite well.
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
This year’s Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary Short makes its way to The Bloor this weekend, and its win of such a prestigious award is somewhat baffling in hindsight. It has nothing to do with the actual content of this moving and inspiring firsthand account of life during World War II, but just in the fact that it’s styled like a 30 minute news magazine and that there’s nothing inherently cinematic about it.
Still, Alice Summer is a remarkable human being. At 109 years old during the filming (she died the following year), she was the oldest living pianist, still performing every day for visitors and residents of her North London apartment building. She was also the oldest living survivor of the holocaust, sharing with director Malcolm Clarke the often harrowing and hopeful story about how music got her through the darkest periods of her life and carried her until her death.
Alice is a great subject with a wonderful story, and even though the film starts to feel laboured at just a shade over half an hour, it’s a joy to spend time with her. Would I pay money to see this in a theatre on its own? Probably not, but it does come with a whopping 30 minute videotaped Q&A with Clarke and producer Frederic Bohbot that will pad things out. I’m sure they’re great guys, but it remains to be seen if their stories are as intriguing as Summer’s. (Opens Tuesday, May 13th)
Also at The Bloor This Week:
Even though Hot Docs just ended for our friends at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, they still have time to host several screenings for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival throughout the weekend.
The sleeper hit Particle Fever also returns for several screenings throughout the week (Friday at 6:30pm, Saturday at 12:30pm, Monday at 9:15pm, and Thursday at 8:45pm).
If you’re a comic book fan (and if you read this site, chances are you probably are), be sure to check out a special event being thrown by TCAF this weekend, as two of the greatest crime writers who ever lived – Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke – host a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing on Saturday, May 10th at 5:30pm (doors at 5). They’ll also be on hand to talk about the art of writing comics, and specifically how to create a great noir.
Finally, the School of Image Arts students of Ryerson University will close out their year on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30pm with the RUFF Festival, showcasing the best filmmaking their school has to offer.