British Film Festival Review: My Generation

What: My Generation (Lionsgate Films) dir. David Barry

When: 23rd October – 14th November, see full British Film Festival Adelaide program here

Where: Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas and Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas

How much: $13 – $21, check prices here

The electric atmosphere that exploded onto the London social scene in the 1960s generated some the most exciting trends in hair, fashion, art, photography and music to date. 50 years on, the styles that emerged are still frequently referenced and continues to influence the Western world’s popular culture psyche. My Generation, featuring in this year’s British Film Festival, documents this youthful explosion that rose from ashes of dull, post-war England, from the perspective of the period’s key creators.

Using footage of London street life, boutiques and night clubs, the film is a bright, fast-paced recount of central London’s style revolution that occurred throughout the decade. The soundtrack of the documentary features almost every iconic ’60s guitar riff from the British rock-and-roll canon.

Mary Quant (pictured bottom, centre) with models at Quant Afoot collection launch 1967 Photo Credit: Smithsonian Mag

David Batty, the documentary’s director wanted people to experience the flourishing youth London social elite that dominated popular culture the 1960s. Born in 1962, Batty witnessed the extravagant lives first-hand of this tight-knit community that thrived financially, socially and creatively. His ballerina mother and journalist father were amongst the new generation who rose above their social-class discrimination and immersed themselves in the London social circuit.

The director’s family background informed his decision to ask Michael Caine to narrate the film. As well as his aptitude as a storyteller, Caine came from a lower-middle class household and was given ample opportunity to succeed as an actor, also retold in his highly coveted 2010 autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood. The film is interspersed with shots from the role that lead him to stardom as a cockney rogue in Alfie (1966). The documentary in parts appears to be retold by Caine effectively as both a young and old man.

Micheal Caine shot by Brian Duffy, 1964 Photo Credit: Morrison Hotel Gallery

My Generation is punctuated with interviews conducted by Caine with names synonymous with Brit Pop including photographer David Bailey, Beatle Paul McCartney, fashion designer Mary Quant, singer Marianne Faithfull, and model Twiggy. Caine’s interviews are light and conversational, as they reflect on their innocence and retell anecdotes that resulted from creative collaboration amongst their community. Caine is the only person shown on the screen as he is today, retelling charming and humorous anecdotes. The interviewees are tactically shown only as their fresh-faced and bright-eyed younger selves as to not break the illusion to the audience of being immersed in the era.

The film makes some attempts to underpin political pressures that catalysed youthful rebellion including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam war, but ultimately focuses on the central London’s young, rich and famous. What was documented was the disillusionment of this society as a result of hallucinogenics, police raids and overdoses that awoke them to the reality of their excessive lifestyles. David Batty was conscious of cramming ten years into 85 minutes, and this is apparent in the documentary’s occasionally frantic editing.

My Generation is a punchy and sharp profile of a unique time in London’s history and is an insight into a social movement from those who were at the forefront. This recount of the 60s is accessible for generations to come and will certainly foster an appreciation of this staggeringly vibrant bygone era.

4 out of 5 stars.

Milly Farmer

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