A serious take on a genre that no one takes seriously
Out of the 18 movies I have so far watched at this year's Bergen International Film Festival, Beyond Clueless var the most powerful experience.
The documentary might be describes as a seamless, intuitive flow of poignant moments from well known and somewhat obscure high-school films (in all genres: drama, comedy, horror, etc) narrated with a heartfelt approach to considering the deeper content of these works. As such, it elevates the genre from the cheap and somewhat ridiculed slots of popular culture to become insightful inquiries on what it means to grow up, to go through puberty and to become an independent person. As a 25 year old, my experience of the movie was a violent rush though a huge spectrum of emotions, both unsettling and ecstatic, somewhat like that of being a teenager again, but having my entire teenage life pass through my senses in the duration of a regular movie. What I experienced was possibly some of the most genuine catharsis I have had at a cinema.
The narration was eloquent, intriguing and beautiful. As an MA in comparative literature I am qualified to assess the quality and validity of interpretations and analyses such as those that the film was making throughout the entire spoken monologue, and I must say that I was very much impressed with the writer's ability to make his views quite clear and coherent without succumbing to subjectivism or far-fetched theorism. At a few occasions the narrative and the accompanying images would intensify to a point where I was struggling to follow the line of reasoning, but this was certainly not the case most of the time.
My only disclaimer would be that since the documentary focuses on movies from the 90s and early 00s, it probably won't speak to your heart unless you grew up in this era. The director if fully aware of this though, as I heard him talk about it when asked at the Q&A after the screening in Bergen yesterday. Without a specific focus and certain limitations, the movie would never have been able to make such a deep dive into certain themes, and would easily have become a more general and perhaps vague film-historical survey.
Finally, a serious take on a genre that no one takes seriously. I never even went to an American high school, and yet I feel as if my teens and adolescent years (a vital portion of my life) have been legitimized and made meaningful. If you're a nostalgic sentimentalist in their twenties, like me, you don't want to miss this.
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