David Batty’s My Generation is a love letter to the 1960s, to the generation of Michael Caine, working-class Cockneys who became the trendsetters of the decade. The documentary charts the course of 60s pop culture, and its important drivers who ended up dominating the western hemisphere. Caine is great, reminiscing over his glory years, though we get to hear little of what he was actually up to. Indeed, the documentary chooses to avoid questioning the decade, telling you how dreary the 50s were and how dull the establishment was. This is less a documentary and more of a montage of 60s hedonism anchored by the ever-charming Caine. It is certainly enjoyable if unenlightening watch.
The film is split into three broad sections which chart the germination of youth culture at the beginning of the decade, its explosion in the mid-60s and the psychedelic comedown as the 60s came to an end. It swings wildly in topic, from music with the Rolling Stones and Marianne Faithfull to the geometric haircuts of Vidal Sassoon to the world of fashion and the miniskirt revolution with Twiggy. Surprisingly, there is little coverage of film bar the occasional Caine anecdote on the world of stuffy actors. In one of the most interesting revelations throughout the documentary, Caine reveals that the only reason he was cast as an officer in Zulu was that the director was American – he did not hold any class preconceptions.
The footage that is presented on screen is exciting yet confusing, the only real explanation we get about what was going on is from the main players themselves, who wax wistfully. We never see these people such as Roger Daltrey, Paul McCartney, and photographer David Bailey though. Caine claims he did not want to distract the audience by showing how old these 60s legends have now become. Instead, it gives them a detached feel, rather than linking them to the decade they were so integral too. The footage of older, bowler-hatted folk tutting at the young, inferior upstarts is particularly entertaining, however, and helps to illustrate the haughty establishment that these players were battling against.
My Generation would benefit greatly by delving into its subject matter at a deeper level. At times it is too superficial and it’s hard to really understand what happened unless you were there of course. Batty successfully gets the idea across that these were young, working-class people rebelling against the establishment, but you never really get a feel for who those young working-class people were. Moreover, contemporary, contentious issues such as race and sexuality are completely ignored in favour of the cultural rebellion that was occurring. The film leaves you with a whitewashed sense of what was going on, the mood of the time.
My Generation is an exciting, muddled look at the 60s as if the film embodied the very time it was trying to document. Caine is full of wit and engaging stories, but there never seems to be any depth to the tale. Instead, you’re left with rapidly cut footage flitting across a whole host of cultural phenomena. It’s all interesting, never examining.
Ewan Wood | [rating=3]
Documentary | UK, 2017 | 12 | 28th May 2018 (DVD, BD) | Lionsgate Home Entertainment |Dir.David Batty