This film has not aged well. Despite it being made in the golden era of Hollywood. The daily problems of 20-somethings do not correspond well to today’s experiences.
One could argue that it is a fair social study of late 1970’s in New York among the children of 2nd or 3rd generation of immigrants from Old Europe.
I love dancing and I do see the appeal of the main story. So I understand how it became a success back in its time.
But now? No thanks. I am allergic to disco music, so probably that is why it has been a difficult watch.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe it is a universal picture of troubled youth. I just don’t dig it.
Rarely does it happen that I see such a beautiful film. Apparently, it is easier to find such gem if we drift away – off the beaten track of European and American films. “Somersault” is an Australian feature made in 2004. As its poster boasts, it was part of the official selection of both Cannes and Toronto festivals back in 2004.
The strongest aspect of this film is coldness in watching a nice looking girl collapse and then gather together. In emotions, in feelings, in life.
Some films are called classic masterpieces for a reason. And this is one of such films.
Watching this film is emotionally exhausting. And not because the plot reminded me of my youthful times or life as a gang member. I was never a gang member if anyone cares to ask. The most powerful notion was that it felt like watching myself being 17 again and re-living my first fascination and closeness with another person my age. Of course we had our issues with ‘the folks’ as do all the three youngsters in this film. Perhaps not that extreme and perhaps we did not end up meeting for the first time at the juvenile retention, but still – the emotional phenomenon of discovering who we really are and who we want to be seems to universally transcribe throughout decades.
James Dean, although he is 24 and plays a 17-year old (and looks a contemporary 32-year old), carries through the magic and power of how it is to be on the verge of becoming one’s true self. He walks, moves, looks like my 17-year old counterparts back in my day. The red jacket he’s wearing (apparently the costume decision was made once it turned out the film will be shot in colour) works like a magnet and forces us to closely watch him and rarely do our eyes turn away. This is a film that needs to be watched with 100% attention as there are so many details crucial to the story, shown rather than described. Shown rather than told.
Also, Jim Stark reminded me of someone and I only realised it late into the film – my first boyfriend back at high school, even though he does not look like James Dean at all. That’s what I’m talking about. The energy, the emotions, the question marks, the will to no longer be in this place and the realisation that when you’re 17, you really are alone with your issues and surprisingly it is your first boyfriend/girlfriend who will become your ally. Not your parents anymore.
There were other films made later touching upon the same notes of coming of age but so far I haven’t seen a more successful one.