Autumn 2008 Documentary series
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 7:00pm
Directed by Stephen Walker
Rated PG ·
As early as autumn 2006, surreal and hilarious video clips of Stephen Walker’s documentary (which originally aired on the BBC) were making the rounds on YouTube and in email inboxes all over the U.S.–tantalizing, out-of-context glimpses of the Young@Heart vocal choir, composed of elderly men and women, having a go at chestnuts by Sonic Youth, the Clash, and the Ramones. It seemed that the feature film, re-released for the screen in 2008, would perhaps be an uncomfortably comic look at a bunch of geezers set up to look ridiculous for the smug delectation of hipster audiences everywhere. The reality is not so far off-base, at least on first glance, but Walker’s film, tracking the progress of the chorus as they prepare for a big gig, provides enough good-natured humor, personal narrative, and intimate details to inspire respect and admiration–and some major heart-string-plucking–in filmgoers. Viewers witness the blossoming of long-buried or completely latent musical talents in the elderly folks; learning the new, unfamiliar material, under the direction of irascible 50-something conductor Bob Cilman, keeps their neurons firing and their emotions kindled, while communing with and trusting each other staves off the isolating effects of old age, even as they cope with heartbreaking losses within their ranks. It is undeniably funny to watch them struggle with the more challenging punk, classic rock, and soul songs as their leader kvetches wearily, but Walker skillfully ensures that, by the end of the film, we are laughing with the intrepid Young@Hearters, and not at them.