Thursday, October 30, 2008

Movie Log: Young at Heart

Young at Heart is a documentary about a group of what we're supposed to call "senior citizens" (because, apparently, "old people" is now an insult) who are part of a chorus of such aged folks in a Massachusetts city.

"Young at Heart" is the name of the chorus, as well as the name of the movie, and they've toured Europe several times in their twenty years of existence. I have to admit that most of them -- with the exception of one gentleman who's now too sick to perform with them except on special occasions -- don't have voices that are substantially better than, say, mine. (And, if you've never heard me sing, it's for a reason.)

Of course, like Johnson's pig on its hind legs, the point isn't how well they sing, but that they sing at all. The chorus has the slight aspect of a postmodern joke, particularly when their conductor and leader, Bob Cilman, has them working on a complex, difficult, and atonal Sonic Youth song. Obviously, both the chorus and their audience wants to see them sing old songs that everyone remembers, particularly if those songs have allusions to age in them. Cilman seems to fight that tendency as much as he can -- even against the chorus, whom he can be quite tyrannical towards -- but it's not at all clear why he started this thing in the first place, and kept it up so long, if he secretly thinks it's just schmaltz. (Maybe he just likes to stretch himself and his singers.)

Anyway, this does come down on the "heartwarming" side, but it mostly gets there honestly. The narrator -- whom I think I should recognize, but I didn't; he's British, and I think his name is Jonathan -- is mostly unobtrusive, and lets the various chorus members tell their own stories. I have the feeling that there's several times as much footage left on the cutting room floor as ended up in the movie, and that the movie was edited to focus on the more "touching" stories -- keep that in mind if you see it.

But it's only ordinarily manipulative for a movie, and the old folks have great attitudes and opinions, for the most part. Their singing may be only decent, but the fact that they can do it is still something to be celebrated.


Kaz Augustin said...

You're not starting to get all soft and squidgy on me now, are you Andrew?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Kaz: I thought it would be clear by now that my taste in movies is almost entirely towards the soft and squidgy...

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