My Generation (12.)
Directed by David Batty.
Featuring My Name is Michael Caine, David Bailey, Roger Daltrey, Paul McCartney and Marianne Faithfull. 84 mins
People try to shut them up talking 'bout their generation, just because they go and on talking 'bout their generation and the things they say are such awful crap and none of them die before they get old. Gathered around the central figure of Michael Caine this documentary, or if you will dodderermentary, is a tedious rehash of every story you've heard a hundred times already about the 60s. Like Red Buses if you miss one cliché another one will be along in second: black and white 50's Britain, Swinging London, city gents in bowler hats disapproving of mini skirts, hippies in Hyde Park, clips of Vietnam, David Bailey photoing Jean Shrimpton, Marianne Faithful getting arrested in a fur rug, Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, Piccadilly Circus. If it isn't Caine, another familiar face is employed. All the Old Dudes, carry the news. Caine definitely doesn't get to say Not A Lot Of People Know That in this film.
Never meet your heroes. And now, never watch your hero's documentary about how he was at the vanguard of the youth revolution that overthrew the establishment and the stifling class system. I'm not quite sure Caine counts as a hero of mine but he's definitely on the reserve list if one dropped out. His was/ is an extraordinary career, a dual trajectory with his cosy celebrity persona keeping him in the spotlight while he reeled off consistently excellent performances. To be that consistently good for over five decades, from his early iconic roles to his position as Christopher Nolan's lucky charm, is remarkable. He's probably the most successful British film star since Chaplin and Laurel, and like them, he's never mastered an American accent. He was never one for doing a Beryl Meep, he never had a farm in Africa, but from within that Caine construct, he can give you the full range.
For about five minutes the nostalgia of the shots of early sixties London and the music looks like it might sweep you along – I'm not arguing that the Sixties wasn't a great decade, possibly even the high point of human history if you were in the right place - but the painful obviousness of every choice quickly sucks away your enthusiasm. (The film's only shock is that its script comes from Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais, who from classic sitcoms like Porridge and Likely Lads to undercover, unnoticed work as top Hollywood script doctors are probably among the most talented screenwriters ever to come from this country.)
People like Twiggy, Bailey, Faithful and Mary Quant have basically spent half a century living off what they did in a few short years in their youth. Nice work if you can get it; which you can't these days. The film's argument is that in the Sixties the young people took over, stopped looking up to "their betters" and revolutionised British, and then Western, society. In the final third the establishment gets in a bit of a dig back at them with some high profile drug busts, but for the most part, this is a massive celebration.
What is the aim of this film, what kind of response is it fishing for? A thank you? A paper hat? An apology? The film seems entirely oblivious to the hideous irony of bragging about how Their Generation broke down barriers, there were opportunities for people from working-class backgrounds, and how Britain used to be a society based on class and privilege and what school you went to – oh, just exactly like it is now. Their Generation did great things: for themselves. Caine's a bit old to be lumped in as a baby boomer, but they were the generation for whom, from that point onwards, the best of everything was good enough for them. It was their ladder and they were taking it with them. And it is a bit rich for Caine and Daltry to complain about the establishment trying to put them down just because they got around when they were happy to pitch in with shrivelled, repressive joycrushers like Gove and Rees Mogg, all for the blessed principle of sovereignty.
So overall, give it rest about your generation.