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

Trailer: Adam Sandler and Peter Dinklage in "Pixels," a Comedy About the Attack of the Aliens Modeled on Classic Video Games
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0CYMC5b8KLE?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:58am Mar. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Actress Speaks Up Against Absurd Hollywood Casting Conventions
Cheers to the understandably anonymous "Miss L," an actress in Hollywood, for her Tumblr posting real-life casting information that shows how limited and misogynistic Hollywood casting is.  Casting Call Woe shows actual casting call notices, most of which require actresses to be hot (no matter what

posted 3:57:54pm Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Paper Towns with Nat Wolff
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/w4olpTxktM4?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:09am Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

The Wrecking Crew
Maybe you like Frank Sinatra and your friend likes the Mamas and Papas. Maybe you've argued about who is better, the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe you prefer Elvis. Each of those monumen

posted 9:48:37pm Mar. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Home
"Home" is a cute and colorful movie about an alien invasion with an important safety tip concerning one of the most destructive forces in the universe, something devastating to every known life form.

posted 5:59:44pm Mar. 26, 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.