Director: Stephen Walker | 109 minutes | music, documentary | Actors: Jim Armenti, William E. Arnold Jr., Joe Benoit, Helen Boston, Louise Canady, Bob Cilman, Elaine Fligman, Jean Florio, Len Fontaine, Stan Goldman, Eileen Hall, Jeanne Hatch, Christopher Haynes, Frederick Alexander Johnson, Donald Jones, Fred Knittle, Norma
How do you get it into your head to start singing in a rock band after the age of eighty – because that’s what it actually is – how do you get it into your head to set up such a choir and how do you get it into your head to to make a documentary about? The film itself provides an unmistakable answer: because it is super fun and it gives you tons of energy. And this is a choir that doesn’t sing old-fashioned boring songs, on the contrary, it wants to keep up with the times. So rock and roll, soul and even punk belong to the special repertoire.
But isn’t it strange or even wrong to pretend you are at most thirty all the time? Isn’t that avoiding the inescapable, harsh reality that you’re likely to die soon? Yes and no. You have to accept that you are old, your body is not doing so well anymore. But that does not mean that you can or may not do anything at all and that you have to wait until you become ill and die? An example: Bob has already looked death in the eye several times. After a long illness, he is back with the choir and revives completely. As everyone also claims, one gets a lot of joy and (life) energy from singing, rehearsing and performing; one wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
The oldest member of the choir is 92 years old and she is one of the most vital of the whole bunch, you can already see it in the eyes: they radiate with zest for life. She even flirts with Stephen Walker, the documentary maker, who is briefly off his face because of this: “Have you always been so smart?” “No, that’s recently,” she winks. The same lady opens, with a real cockney accent, the documentary with a lead in “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash; the audience in the hall is going crazy.
53 year old Benjamin of the choir is conductor and initiator Bob Cilman. As a great source of inspiration, he is praised by the members of the choir and comes up with the most bizarre songs, such as “Schizophrenia” by Sonic Youth. Another song that is met with skepticism during the first rehearsal, but, as has often happened, becomes one of the favorites of both choir and audience. Nice detail: Walker made real video clips from four covers from the repertoire of “Young @ Heart”, with the oldies in the lead role. All very beautiful and moving.
The fascinating documentary works towards a performance in a local theater, which is completely sold out and in which the new plays (including “I feel good” by James Brown, one of the stumbling blocks) are warmly received by an enthusiastic audience. The highlight of that show and also the highlight of the film is a beautiful, deeply moving performance of “Fix You”, a Coldplay classic.
Not all choir members survive the documentary, you can wait for that. But as it should be everyone is sad, but “the show must go on”, a new tour through Europe awaits and after all: if they didn’t sing, it would soon be over with different members of the choir anyway. Understandable, because let’s face it: how would you rather spend your old age: languishing behind the geraniums or singing in a rock choir and dying in armor?