Talkin’ about his generation
Michael Caine reminisces about a time when Britannia ruled the airwaves, the screen, and pretty much everything else
For those unfamiliar with ’60s lore, or those 2 who were part of the cultural upheaval and therefore need their memory cells recharged, My Generation is a terrifically entertaining overview of how colour came to drab postwar Britain, and class strictures finally began to fall away.
At only 85 minutes, there’s no way this swiftly moving clip show could cover all the bases. Good thing it has a stellar tour guide in one Michael Caine, doing double duty as himself today, reading prepared quips from this distance, and himself young, strutting down London streets—in perfectly matched clips from films like The Ipcress File and, of course, Alfie—back when England swung like a pendulum do. Roger Miller isn’t aboard, but everyone else is. Caine’s new-wave epiphany came, he recalls, the first time he went to the Ad Lib Club, and spotted “every single Beatle and every single Rolling Stone on the dance floor”.
Under the nifty direction of David Batty, who has mostly directed TV docs about religious history, the era is resurrected with archival footage and all the key songs—shout-out to music supervisor Tarquin Gotch—from the above-mentioned bands, plus Donovan, Cream, and that most English of English bands, the Kinks. Paul Mccartney, the Who’s Roger D-d-daltrey, and photographer David Bailey are among many alternate narrators heard, but seen only as their beautifully youthful selves. The film could have used some more female representation on the soundtrack, although singer Marianne Faithfull, designer Mary Quant, and protosupermodel Twiggy speak at some length about changes in fashion and sexual mores at the time.
This Generation probably takes on too much when it tries to encompass outer developments, like Vietnam and the North American counterculture. The lack of focus, in the end, is related to Caine— born Maurice Micklewhite in 1933—being a crucial decade older than most of the cohorts in question. Writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who wrote for everyone on Brit TV from The Likely Lads to Tracey Ullman, are only a few years younger than Caine, and the mists of time seem to have obscured their mission a bit. Still, as long as some can gaze on “Waterloo Sunset”, we’ll be in paradise.
> KEN EISNER MINDING THE GAP
A documentary by Bing Liu. Rating unavailable
There’s a heavy, hollowed-out kind of hope 2
at the heart of this on-the-fly exercise in visual diary-keeping that says as much about money as it does about the boys who grow up before your very eyes.
The second movie about skateboards released this week, Minding the Gap trades Skate Kitchen’s sharp all-girl crew for a posse of troubled dudes from Rockford, Illinois, dubbed one of the most dangerous midsized towns in the Disunited States.
“This place just eats away at you,” says Keire Johnson, the only African-american and the most instantly likable of the pals profiled by talented first-time filmmaker Bing Liu, who started videotaping his skater scene while still in middle school. Thus, we are also able to watch the blandly handsome Zack Mulligan age from voluble, brighteyed Anglo preteen to beer-besotted lout, doomed— alongside high-school sweetheart Nina and their luckless baby—to repeat the cycle of violent unrest he grew up with, in their huge, now-dilapidated houses.
The gap being minded here has to do with income, of course, and also the distance between childhood and being an adult. “We still have to fully grow up,” one says early on. “And it fucking sucks.” The F-bombs flow as freely as the Pabst Blue Ribbon in this Rust Belt wasteland, and you can see childlike consternation on the boys’ faces as they struggle to give more complicated answers to Bing’s increasingly frank questions. The gap in education yawns menacingly too.
It takes a while for quiet, scrawny Bing (who now lives in Chicago) to come out from behind the camera, mainly to address his Chinese-born mother about the abuse they both suffered at the hands of his American stepfather, now long gone. Keire’s volatile dad is also absent, but the kid somehow remains cheerful through everything, and eventually packs up his boards and musical gear to start a new life in another town, leaving Zack behind.
Remarkably, all three—a multiethnic microcosm of American malehood—keep improving their skating skills, offering glimmers of curbhopping freedom unburdened by doubt, place, or history. Painted on the topside of one of Keire’s decks: “This Device Cures Heartache.” As it happens, the words were put there by Zack.
> KEN EISNER
TULIPANI: LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE
Starring Ksenia Solo. In English, Italian, and Dutch, with English subtitles. Rated 14A
Fablelike charm and a few edgy turns take 2
some of the treacle out of this aggressively crowd-pleasing international coproduction, which manages to cram multiple ethnic stereotypes into a beautifully shot, if strangely silly, fantasy of love et cetera.
Dutch director Marleen Gorris, who released the Oscar-winning Antonia’s Line in 1995 and Mrs. Dalloway two years later, was supposed to direct Peter van Wijk’s script for Tulipani. When she had health problems, the task fell to Mike van Diem, who got his own foreign-language Oscar for 1997’s Character. Van Diem, who subsequently coauthored the script, begins things in 1980, perhaps just to ensure that no ugly cellphones will rear their story-killing heads.
Canadian ex–child star Ksenia Solo, who was born in Latvia, plays Anna, a red-haired Montrealer who heads to the old country when her Italian mamma suddenly dies. No sooner does Anna arrive in the quaintly cobblestoned Puglia region than her crimson locks arrest café keeper Immacolata (The Best of Youth’s Lidia Vitale) and grown son Vito (Michele Venitucci). They immediately regale her with tales of her real mother and the father she never knew. Well, first some farcical things happen to attract the attention of a jaded police inspector (’70s fave Giancarlo Giannini), who sits patiently through the flashbacks-within-flashbacks structure. (A few scenes were also shot in Lithuania and Hamilton, Ontario, for more complication.)
Travelling another 27 years into the past, it turns out that future dad was a Dutch farmer called Gauke (Gijs Naber), who escapes an infamous flood and rides his sturdy bike—hence the subtitle—all the way down the heel of Italy’s boot. Before that, actually, we find him copulating with a Botticelli-maned damsel (Anneke Sluiters) whose name he won’t learn until, oh, about 10 months later.
The bearded and bedraggled foreigner is taken in by Immacolata and son (played by Venitucci again, but with cast standout Gianni Pezzolla as the much littler Vito). Gauke buys a farm and starts growing tulips. Because, remember, he’s Dutch! Soon the local Mafiosi start horning in on his business, and it takes a tall, blond foreigner to put them in their place. That, and fart jokes. The results, while variable, prove entertaining enough to encourage the suspension of critical faculties for just about 90 minutes.
> KEN EISNER
that of Cineplex’s event-based Park Theatre on Cambie Street.
Cineplex event cinema vicepresident Brad Ladouceur explained in a news release that the change is in response to an increase in demand for event cinema programming. The theatre is one of 10 new event screens across the country, for a total of 22 Cineplex event-based cinemas. Screenings will include theatre, Met Opera performances, limitedengagement presentations, holiday programming, archival TV series episodes, and more.
Fall film programming at the theatre will include showings of the Stage Series, featuring performances from Ontario’s Stratford Festival; the In the Gallery series, featuring exhibitions by artists like Salvador Dalí, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Edgar Degas; performances by the Bolshoi Ballet and the Australian Ballet; Met Opera performances including and concerts by Jonas Kaufmann and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo; family films such as and
E.T. the Extraterrestrial Show Dogs; Psycho.