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Teenage2014

  • 3.8
Teenagers didn't always exist. They had to be invented. As the cultural landscape around the world was thrown into turmoil during the industrial revolution, and with a chasm erupting between adults and youth, the concept of a new generation took shape. Whether in America, England or Germany, whether party-crazed Flappers or hip Swing Kids, zealous Nazi Youth or frenzied Sub-Debs, it didn't matter. This was a new idea of youth. They were all "teenagers." A hypnotic rumination on the genesis of youth culture from the end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th, Matt Wolf's TEENAGE is a living collage of rare archival material, filmed portraits and diary entries read by Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw and others. Inspired by Jon Savage's book and set to a shimmering contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter/Atlas Sound), TEENAGE is a mesmerizing trip into the past and a riveting look at the very idea of "coming-of-age."

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1 member likes this review

Screeching teenage girls in a theater. For whom? No, not THEM. No, not HIM. How about a guy named Francis? As in "Frank"? I thought "we" invented shrieking with the Beatles ... and SEX. Guess not. And check the young men depicted TWITCHING after World War I. Now it is called, at best, PTSD.

An astonishing documentary, not maudlin, manipulative, boring and sedating like the kind put out by Ken Burns and pbs, no offense. Rockin' and pre-rockin' sound track. Child labor. Boy Scouts. Military youth "camps" in three nations (guess which three). Then killing a generation on the "field of honor" in the first war for empire in Europe. Then flappers. Then military economic recovery camps for the depression. And swing and jitterbug. Then war for empire again and Hitler sending in the ten-year olds. Then "Sub-Debs". Then head-shrinkahs interviewing kids to learn their shopping desires. Then a Teenager's Bill of Rights. Actually a Bill of Maybes and Perhapses.

Of course, NONE of the archival footage or stills contains even an atom of economic or class analysis, nuff said: zoot suit riots, jitterbugging, and teen problems are from 'stress and strain at home', just like now, capitalism leaves no fingerprints. Or something. And some diaries read as if the teens are the ones controlling the businessmen rather than the other way around. But THEY didn't get any class analysis in school, EITHER.

Melita, a Hitler Youth public information officer writes that HY rightly requires hard work and loyalty and that they "BELIEVE IN GERMANY'S SUPERIOR MORAL POSITION" followed by a shot to a sign that says "ACHTUNG JUDEN." [USA 2015: Schooling inculcates "belief in AMERICA/ISRAEL'S SUPERIOR MORAL POSITION" and a sign saying "ACHTUNG PALESTINIAN SCUM" might be appropriate.]

And watch for Brenda Dean Paul, Tommie Scheel and the Edelweiss Pirates, (no, NOT a band), a young black man who served "in the war" saying that Europeans treated him as equals but not at home and that everytime he gets disrespected he wants to explode in anger. AND MORE from HY Melita about the individual being subsumed by the whole. (Like, maybe, everyone wearing EARPLUGS THESE DAYS?!]

Awesome that Jon Savage, author of the book "TEENAGER: The creation of youth culture 1875-1945" manage to FIND all this plus the film's research crew regarding archival footage [lots of end credits] If you MISSED ALL THIS CULTURAL ANTHROLOGY in high school, cough, cough, or college, give it a watch.

And as I said, a great sound track to boot.

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Member Reviews (3)

170548.small
top reviewer

Screeching teenage girls in a theater. For whom? No, not THEM. No, not HIM. How about a guy named Francis? As in "Frank"? I thought "we" invented shrieking with the Beatles ... and SEX. Guess not. And check the young men depicted TWITCHING after World War I. Now it is called, at best, PTSD.

An astonishing documentary, not maudlin, manipulative, boring and sedating like the kind put out by Ken Burns and pbs, no offense. Rockin' and pre-rockin' sound track. Child labor. Boy Scouts. Military youth "camps" in three nations (guess which three). Then killing a generation on the "field of honor" in the first war for empire in Europe. Then flappers. Then military economic recovery camps for the depression. And swing and jitterbug. Then war for empire again and Hitler sending in the ten-year olds. Then "Sub-Debs". Then head-shrinkahs interviewing kids to learn their shopping desires. Then a Teenager's Bill of Rights. Actually a Bill of Maybes and Perhapses.

Of course, NONE of the archival footage or stills contains even an atom of economic or class analysis, nuff said: zoot suit riots, jitterbugging, and teen problems are from 'stress and strain at home', just like now, capitalism leaves no fingerprints. Or something. And some diaries read as if the teens are the ones controlling the businessmen rather than the other way around. But THEY didn't get any class analysis in school, EITHER.

Melita, a Hitler Youth public information officer writes that HY rightly requires hard work and loyalty and that they "BELIEVE IN GERMANY'S SUPERIOR MORAL POSITION" followed by a shot to a sign that says "ACHTUNG JUDEN." [USA 2015: Schooling inculcates "belief in AMERICA/ISRAEL'S SUPERIOR MORAL POSITION" and a sign saying "ACHTUNG PALESTINIAN SCUM" might be appropriate.]

And watch for Brenda Dean Paul, Tommie Scheel and the Edelweiss Pirates, (no, NOT a band), a young black man who served "in the war" saying that Europeans treated him as equals but not at home and that everytime he gets disrespected he wants to explode in anger. AND MORE from HY Melita about the individual being subsumed by the whole. (Like, maybe, everyone wearing EARPLUGS THESE DAYS?!]

Awesome that Jon Savage, author of the book "TEENAGER: The creation of youth culture 1875-1945" manage to FIND all this plus the film's research crew regarding archival footage [lots of end credits] If you MISSED ALL THIS CULTURAL ANTHROLOGY in high school, cough, cough, or college, give it a watch.

And as I said, a great sound track to boot.

1 member likes this review

I tend to agree with Spencer G.'s assertion that the film lacks focus. To call it a rumination is accurate. It is a deeply personal rumination - one that wanders and meanders without ever really making a final point.

That's not to say the film is bad. I was taught that good art makes you feel. I felt something, but I'm not sure exactly what . . . uneasy, awkward, unsettled. Maybe that was the point.

However, to echo Spencer's comments, the visual elements are very good. The film is worth a watch for the archival footage alone.

Interesting try but it's an overambitious mishmash of too many elements. To cover teens over half a century in three separate countries is a tall order, the mix often fails, the sound is often impossible to understand and the movie badly needs a unifying narrator. On the plus side, much of the archival footage --especially the prewar color -- is extremely interesting; it makes the bad parts tolerable.