MY GENERATION

★★★

REVISITING THE SWINGING 60s

BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
10th March 2019

Directed by documentary filmmaker David Batty and narrated by Michael Caine (‘King of Thieves’, ‘Dunkirk’), ‘My Generation’ explores how, after the Second World War, a generation of working class Britons latched on to the energy of a gaggle of young Liverpudlian actors, models and musicians. This culminated in a shockwave of pop art that ultimately coalesced into the mod movement. Suddenly, being a fresh-faced, wonky-toothed Brit meant you could effectively influence international tastes.

‘My Generation’ has been assembled over six years by producer Simon Fuller, writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (best known for their many, many UK sitcoms such as ‘Porridge’ and ‘The Likely Lads’) and director Batty, who tell the story of the birth of pop culture in London, through the eyes of the young Michael Caine. Over the course of an hour and a half, Batty and editor Ben Hilton illustrate this story with a barrage of archival footage from the 60s and early 70s, some of it familiar (lots of clips from Caine’s films like ‘Alfie’ and the Harry Palmer series) and some of it not.

'MY GENERATION' TRAILER

Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, tells the well-oiled story of how he chose his stage name when he saw ‘The Caine Mutiny’ on a marquee. “If I’d been in front of a different theatre, I’d have been Michael 101 Dalmatians,” he concludes, conveniently ignoring the fact that the two films came out seven years apart.

He goes on to recount how he did “air traffic control” for a friend (Terrence Stamp, ‘Crooked House’). And by air traffic control he means he was safely keeping “birds,” A.K.A. women his friend was dating from bumping into each other as they came and went in and out of the apartment.

In another wizened breath, he talks about his mother asking him what a miniskirt was. Rather than describe one, he took her to the fashionable King’s Road where the young women all wore miniskirts. “If it’s not for sale you shouldn’t put it in the window,” Caine says his mother tutted of these slatterns (while Terrence Stamp watched on from the shadows, possibly).

In another wizened breath, he talks about his mother asking him what a miniskirt was. Rather than describe one, he took her to the fashionable King’s Road where the young women all wore miniskirts. “If it’s not for sale you shouldn’t put it in the window,” Caine says his mother tutted of these slatterns (while Terrence Stamp watched on from the shadows, possibly).

As you can imagine, the film is very much told through Caine’s personal lens. This is not a deep dive into politics or the unpacking of other weighty social concerns. There’s also little introspection or scuttlebutt here – instead it is a love letter to a decade that created Brit cool and saw the children of the working class take over culture.

The narration by Caine is accompanied by voiceover contributions from many others such as Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, Marianne Faithfull, Donovan, Twiggy, Mary Quant and Penelope Tree. They all chat with Caine in voiceover interviews, but he’s the only one who appears on screen in contemporary footage. There are also film clips of many of these people taken at the time, too. Songs from The Kinks, The Animals, The Rolling Stones and, of course, The Beatles play throughout the film.

While there is nothing here that people with a passing knowledge of pop culture would be unaware of, the first half – exploring the origins of the cultural moment in photography, music and film – is still quite fascinating, with glimpses of England’s cultural moment percolating unnoticed.

‘My Generation’ is an unrepentant nostalgia-fest for the era, but there is entertainment to be had if you were alive in the 1960s, a keen Anglophile, or simply want something cozy to watch with your parents with a cup of tea and a nice biscuit.

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