My Generation Review
My Generation is a love letter to a decade. A documentary split into three sections charting the rise, success and decline of the 60s generation. It is full of those that put the swing in the "Swinging Sixties", including David Bailey, Joan Collins, Roger Daltrey, Dudley Edwards, Marianne Faithfull, Barbara Hulanicki, Lulu, Paul McCartney, Terry O'Neill, David Puttnam, Mary Quant, Mim Scala, Sandi Shaw, Penelope Tree and Twiggy, to name but a few.
My Generation is a talking head narration, with Michael Caine relaying a more personal experience of the 1960s, interspersed with conversations with his famous friends dubbed over some glorious stock footage. As such this documentary is a researcher's dream. The amount of material that the film pulls together to construct itself, is staggering; a nostalgic smorgasbord of news clips, public service announcements and other amazing footage that gives you a whole image of the sixties.
However, by the conclusion, you can't help but think that is all a little muddled. It preaches revolution and rebellion, but those like Mary Quant, who designed the mini skirt, hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, models, as well as all the photographers and artists still fell into a consumerist model. Quant and Sassoon sold their image of individuality to the mass market rather than change anything meaningful. This is a documentary about actors and musicians, all influential artists I’ll grant you, but it's not as grand and empowering as it leads you to believe; mates hanging out trying not to be like their parents, sort of like my generation, the "Millennials".
It shows the cyclical aspect of history; how the previous generation bemoan the younger that doesn't live up to decent British values. We see people fighting the systems, like Michael Caine, trying to prove the value of the working class who were previously looked down on. We see people following in his footsteps, trying to rise to greatness, doing it themselves, fighting a system that is constantly sneering and trying to tear them down, like with the drug raids on The Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney. Then we see clips of parties, with some of these same people becoming caught up in the drug culture, consumerism and losing their way. Ending with a conclusion which feels more like a shrug than a rallying cry.
Some still viewed the Swinging Sixties as morally dubious and while the focus is on the rock and roll survivors, there is a distinct lack of talk about those lost to the decade. The sixties did a lot to shape how Britain is now, and its views on art, class, gender and race, but the film does not delve into these areas in great detail, instead giving us a surface glance at some great looking archive footage.
What makes it even worse is the casual sexism and racism there is in the film. Caine himself refers to women as "birds" and is constantly telling you which parties had the prettiest ones. Similarly, all of the subjects covered in the documentary are white and lower class. Despite all the talk to the contrary, the sixties were a very insular and small movement. It was primarily focussed on the West End and for everyone else outside that bubble, no one really enjoyed the freedoms that the decade allowed. Similarly, while Caine, the Beatles and The Who may have proven social mobility was possible, most of those taking part in the parties were themselves middle class, seeing the extravagant lifestyle and colour as a diversion from the grey norm rather than a bonafide movement. This leaves My Generation feeling empty and hollow, without any ideological wind to power its sails.
Though it did take six years to assemble the footage in its construction, this documentary just feels like you were invited to a party by Michael Caine (cool, I know) but after he introduces you to all his famous friends, he then spends the entire night reminiscing with them about times you weren't there for and in-jokes that you don't get. The film was made for a very specific audience, those who were there at the time and experienced it. It is like a moving photo album, a mood board that will help people to relive their youth. This truly is their film, as for anyone else My Generation isn't yours, it’s not historical, political, social, it is just a series of well-told, largely subjective stories of a great storyteller.
There isn't really much to talk about in regards to the presentation of the disc. Lionsgate distributed the film and apart from the bare essentials there isn't much in the way of extras or menu options. The Limited Edition does have postcards and a 36-page booklet with an introduction by Caine and an essay from the film's Director David Batty.