Video by LAfilmcutter
Young 80s fans with a Netflix account may be interested in the latest Instant viewing selection, Don’t You Forget About Me. Sound like something from Breakfast Club, huh? Well there’s a reason for that. It’s a documentary about iconic filmmaker John Hughes that was released just after his death last August.
Actually, this isn’t really a documentary, which might imply an academic dissection of Hughes’s films. Rather, Don’t You Forget About Me is a tribute, one made by four Canadian filmmakers, probably none of them older than 23. They’re unknowns that probably had no budget, but they were able to interview former cast members, directors (including Jason Reitman, Kevin Smith, and frequent Hughes collaborator, Howard Deutsch), film critics, and even regular teenagers to discuss the genius of Hughes’s movies. Or, more specifically, his teen films.
The movie got a lot of flack in the user reviews on Netflix, but if you can ignore the distracting portions of the film where we follow the kids en route to Chicago where they hope to find John Hughes’s house and ask to interview him, and that the bulk of archive footage is curiously Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the film makes an important, and rather depressing point — a lot of these films gave you a sincere portrait of teenagers (even via nerds Wyatt and Gary in the sci-fi comedy, Weird Science). But, the industry has changed, and so has the product, and teen films just aren’t the same anymore.
Though it’s probably obvious to anyone who’s watched teen films (or hell, even teen-centric television shows) out these days, there isn’t anything particularly relatable about the characters. Alan Moyle, director of the teenage rebellion flick, Pump Up the Volume, said that he probably wouldn’t have gotten the green light for his film if he shopped it around today. “They’d say it was too small.” But I think one kid, was absolutely right when he succinctly remarked, “It’s all tits and ass.”
It’s not that nobody knows how to tap into a teenager’s psyche the way that John Hughes did — and I think he did it best in 16 Candles more than any of his other films, despite The Breakfast Club being so often hailed as the most sacred. With the exception of the mansion-dwelling preppies, it really captured the awkwardness of the teen years (among other things going on in the movie, a 15-year old girl isn’t sure whether her crush has any interest in her), without being too loud with the angst. But, hell, we all remember what it’s like to be a teenager (or will, for those of you who haven’t exited that stage of life yet), but studios just don’t pay for that kind of honesty anymore. And it wasn’t just the teen films that changed. And it wasn’t just movies, either. When expenditures to create these products rose into the millions, the whole game instituted new rules.
A good companion documentary to check out, too, is Ted Demme’s A Decade Under the Influence, which focused on the new direction the films were taking in reaction to both the bland, paranoid 1950s and also the avante garde in France. Funny how we’ve come full circle.
Eventually, this will turn into a more detailed post over on the Muvika blog. Long live reality! Uh… more or less.