Sunday, June 8, 2008


Young@Heart (2007, Walker) Like a cross between Saura's Carmen and Parker's The Commitments,Young@Heart directed by Stephen Walker is a documentary movie about the resilience of the human spirit. Rock stars are rebels and aging rock stars are rebelling against the vissitudes of time as much as anything else but this is not a documentary about Keith Richards though he would probably have the time of his life playing with Young@Heart. It is instead a documentary about a group of seniors who for twenty years have been getting together to sing. So successful have they been that they have even toured Europe and plan to do so again.Originally produced as a documentary for British TV, Young@Heart follows 7 weeks of rehearsal before show for a performance in their hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. However even though their own musical tastes run the gamut you would expect of people in their seventies and eighties (from The Sound of Music to classical opera) these seniors perform the most unlikely songs by the likes of the Clash and Sonic Youth.

The singers are led by
Bob Cilman who both cares deeply about the project but more importantly the people. He does not patronize his singers nor does he cajole them as much as demand and challenge them; his performers are also not afraid to show their opinions but also are so open to the experience that they find something to admire about even the most unlikely of choices. Imagine your grandmother extolling the virtues of Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth. Or your grandfather belting out 'I Wanna Be Sedated'? Some of the songs they sing are more obvious selections if still well-chosen such as Staying Alive, Road to Nowhere, Should I Stay or Should I Go, I Got You (I Feel Good) but others are more challenging both lyrically and musically as when the group struggles over You Can Can by Allen Toussaint with its 71 'cans.'

For the most part the director is happy to stay off-camera as we watch the rehearsals interspersed with some hilarious music videos but it is clear that he is establishing a relationship with the group members and so are we. There are moments of sadness - two cast members die in the time in which the documentary was filmed and the movie is also dedicated to the oldest member who died after filming - it is inevitable and the movie is not afraid to let us get close to these people so that the documentary does not give us an overly-sanitized look at the reality of old age.

Young@Heart is a foot-stomping, inspirational full price ticket.

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