Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Interview: Young@Heart

posted by Nell Minow

“Young@Heart” is a documentary about a Northampton, Massachusetts-based choir of elderly performers who sing rock songs — not soft rock or pop but raw punk rock. It is not at all stunt-ish or cutesy. It turns out that these songs written by angry young men to — as Jack Black said in “School of Rock,” “stick it to the man” take on a new and profound resonance when they are sung by these people in their 80’s and 90’s. You might think that by this time they are “the man.” But in a very real sense, they have more cause to stick it to the man than performers in their 20’s could imagine. For them, “the man” is loss, death, making the most of the time they have left. The lyrics of songs like the Ramones’ “I Want to Be Sedated,” The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia,” James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” and Cold Play’s “Fix You” are heartbreaking and touching when sung with such ferocity and humor. The Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” takes on much more meaning when sung by someone who fought in World War II. Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” becomes ineffably touching when sung by people who find such joy in performing and learning even in their ninth decades.

I spoke to three members of the choir, music director Bob Cilman, and the man who made the movie, documentarian Stephen Walker.

Chorus members Brock Lynch, Leonard Fontaine, and John Larareo

Movie director Stephen Walker

How did you find out about the Young@Heart chorus?

They were performing in London. My partner Sally George said she had tickets to a show that could be quite interesting — a bunch of old people singing rock and roll music. I thought weird, gimmicky, had a faint image of a dancing bear, but they had brilliant reviews. They are much better known in Britain. I thought the show was just amazing and the audience demographic was interesting, lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s. They were were really responding.

What would you say the movie is about?

It’s about life and death, the way the meaning of words you know well is completely changed. It’s a film about old age through rock music. Other generations can identify with it because it is like a rock opera about old age. Issue led movies about old age are really boring. But looking at those fantastically interesting people, 87-year old Lenny singling “Purple Haze,” it becomes a metaphor for dementia.

The movie features music videos. It’s unusual for a documentary to include material that presented more impressionistically.

The film was hand in glove with the music videos. It was really interesting to break away into an out of time space, to have a commentary on the rest of the film. “Sedated” gets huge cheers in screenings because people see the punk in the 80-year-olds. They’re singing angrily about what it can be like.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

That mixture was one of the hardest challenges in the film to pull off, the tightrope between humor and sadness. It is quite a hard thing to pull off. If you get it wrong it can be a car crash. I had no idea that there would be deaths while we were filming. I never thought there would be a death. The worst we thought would happen would be that someone could fall or stumble on stage — we agreed at the beginning we would not humiliate anyone or make them look vulnerable or helpless. Oh, and I learned right from the beginning that two words could get me ejected immediately: “cute” or “adorable.” No infantalizing.

What is next?

We’d like to make a feature film about the group.



  • Cindi

    I just saw this article on my internet home page this week! Rock On!
    Cindi

  • Linda

    Our local film festival has this film for it’s spring fund raiser in a few weeks. The group is supposed to perform after the screening, I can’t wait!!!

  • Cheryl Kelley

    Can’t wait to see it! It sounds completely charming. I just wish we had a few more of the independent films in Green Bay. I’ll probably end up Netflixing it.

Previous Posts

Three Views on the Challenges Women Face in the Film Industry
It is wonderful that directors like Ava DuVernay, Angelina Jolie, and Gina Prince-Bythewood gave us superb films in 2014.  But it is an indicator of the challenges still faced by women filmmakers that none of them was nominated for a major directing award. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists

posted 3:38:46pm Jan. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Snickers Wins the Super Bowl!
The real competition at the Super Bowl is for the commercials, right? This Snickers ad is a hoot. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rqbomTIWCZ8?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:02am Jan. 31, 2015 | read full post »

How Did Ca Plane Pour Moi End Up in So Many Movies?
How did a 1977 song in French by the Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand become a go-to for 21st century American movie soundtracks, from big studio films to quirky indies? "Ça Plane Pour Moi" has appeared in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and last week's "We'll Never Have Paris," from

posted 3:40:03pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

The Kitten Bowl 2015: You Can Win A Set of Kitten Cards
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5sO4NoaF89Y?rel=0" frameborder="0"] The most-anticipated sporting event of the weekend -- in some circles anyway, is this year's Kitten Bowl, Su-Purr Sunday, February 1 (12/11c) only on Hallmark Channel! [caption id="attachment_3263

posted 12:00:45pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Una Gran Noticia! Disney's First Latina Princess
The Disney princesses have their first Latina member! Princess Elena of Avalor will make her debut in the Disney Channel series "Sofia the First" before starring in her own series on the Disney channel.

posted 9:19:37am Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.