Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Must See Film: Young@Heart

I just saw a preview screening at work of a documentary called "Young @ Heart." Titled after the chorus of the same name, this film perfectly personifies the catchphrase of "Down By Law," the one uttered over and over by Roberto: "It is a sad and beautiful world."

The Young @ Heart chorus is comprised entirely of people over 73 years of age, but focuses on singing contemporary (often quite contemporary) music. Taking a six week rehearsal period as its back drop, the film tells the story of the chorus through the lives of several chorus members and the observations of their Director, Bob Cilman. There is a bit of talk about how music performance is good for keeping people active, challenging their minds and bodies, ad so on -- but this isn't a music therapy promotional piece. This is a beautiful film about wonderful people making inspiring (and yes, amusing) music. You will immediately get drawn into the stories of these extraordinary people, and only the stone hearted can leave the theater not caring about them.

Director Stephen Walker does a great job of keeping things honest, with very little vamping for the camera by the participants, or "knowing" asides by the filmmakers. At first blush, I expected the film to be hip and ironic -- perhaps even sarcastic. After all, what about the elderly singing Sonic Youth and The Ramones isn't some kind of trendy, retro-kitsch parody ripe for a moment of cynical embrace by the legions of cool -- only to be discarded during the next moment's fad? Well, the film gives you that answer in copious quantities. This is a film about people, not pop culture, and it is quite an emotional ride. I don't want to give away too much because you absolutely must see this film. If the story of the Young @ Heart choir doesn't empower you to say, without a hint of irony: "I laughed, I cried, I danced in the aisles" -- well, then, you probably should just adjust your horn-rimmed glasses and calmly, aloofly hurry back to the oxygen bar next door so you won't miss your live-blogging gossip about Project Runway session (soulless freak).

Young @ Heart opens April 9th in limited, phased roll-out release. If it comes to your area, see it. If not, see it on DVD. And if the Young @ Heart choir comes to your area sprint, don't run, to get ticket before they nearly instantly sell out (as they are sure to do).