Monday, April 14, 2008

Young@Heart, and the Power of Clips (Commonplace Book)

Young@Heart, a new movie in theaters now -- and which I have not seen -- is a documentary by Don Argott about Bob Silmans's weird project to teach a choir of senior citizens songs by Sonic Youth, Coldplay, and the Ramons. Stephen Walker reviewed the film for the AV Club and wrote this:

Argott unwisely maintains a respectful distance from him and avoids asking tough questions, like whether teaching confused seniors a Sonic Youth song is broadening their horizons, or imposing his own arty taste on folks who'd rather sing the Irving Berlin songbook. Argott similarly stumbles in including homemade Young At Heart "music videos" that come off as cheesy and condescending instead of cheeky and irreverent. Which is a shame, because there's a wealth of great material here, especially a shattering performance of Coldplay's "Fix You" by a soulful mountain of a man named Fred Knittle. In this transcendent, goosebump-inducing moment, the facile gimmick of senior citizens performing the music of their grandchildren's generation disappears, giving way to something truer and more profound: a great singer connecting on a primal level with the heart of a terrific song. It's a wonderful sequence that deserves to be in a deeper, better film.

Trolling around on YouTube confirms Walker's opinion: most of the videos are cheesy and condescending (especially "I Wanna be Sedated"), and there are seeds of a better film in the cover of Fix You (though I am not sure I would go as far as Walker in his estimation of it). I will not bore you with the lesser clips, or the trailer for the film, which you can find on your own anyway if you are so inclined, but I do want to add to the commonplace book this week "Fix You"

I am becoming interested in clips. I did not see Be Kind Rewind because I bet the reviews are right and that Gondry is not much of a storyteller; but I still watch the trailer occasionally because it is really fun. I think I may have bought Death Proof because I like the final 18 minutes. I bet the YouTube clip of Fix You is all I will ever need from Young@Heart. There is so many gems hiding in the mediocre stuff and YouTube and the like has the ability to sever it from the whole in what could really be a powerful way. Or does everyone already know this, and I am the last one to be leaving the sinking ship called aesthetic integrity?

Examples from your own experiences?


scott91777 said...

The guy isn't a 'great' singer but the clip is a powerful one. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Johnny Cash video for 'Hurt'
It's a question of appropriateness I think, senior citizens are unlikely to find anything of themselves in Ramones songs... but "Fix You" works.

P.S. Given that the Ramones would all be pushing 60 now... maybe The Ramones aren't so far removed as I thought.

James said...

Re: clips, the Superman Returns teaser was (and is) incredible, the movie less so.

Marc Caputo said...

I gotta know - what Sonic Youth song do they sing? Teenage Riot?

This is oddly compelling being that SY is more known for their playing and instrumentation than for their vocals. Yes, Ramones are the punk progenitors, but their songs were catchy and could be hummed, or at least sung. That's what made punk so appealing in those early days - the return to simpler pleasures, not a 40 minute Moog synthesizer solo with a guy dressed like a bunch of grapes (and I LIKE Genesis!)

Coligo said...

I agree with James about the brilliance of the Superman Returns teaser (and subsequent un-brilliance of the movie).

Speaking of which, this seems appropriate here.

As far as great clips/shorts go I'd say the intro movie from Onimusha 3 is a magnificent piece of action cinema. The BMW Hire short films are quite interesting too, especially considering the diversity of the directors involved.