The 17th Philadelphia Film Festival got off to a rollicking start with an old lady singing "Should I Stay or Should I Go." This is the opening scene of director Stephen Walker's documentary Young@Heart, which profiles an eponymous choir of seniors who specialize in rock, covering Sonic Youth, James Brown, and Coldplay, among others. The whole film is full of moments like this, with the supposed propriety of age juxtaposed with the irreverence of rock. In one of several music videos that pepper the film, an entire nursing home sings "I Wanna Be Sedated." As we get to know the members of the chorus, the film becomes as moving as it is hilarious. Walker's narration occasionally feels intrusive, smacking of cutesy nightly news voiceover, but the overall doc is solid and the music is actually very, very good.
In the Q&A afterwards, Walker, the choir's musical director Bob Cilman, and chorus members Helen Boston, Joseph Mitchell, and Liria Petrides discussed the making of the film. I was disappointed to hear that the one song they couldn't clear the rights for (and there are a LOT of songs in this film - rights took nine months to clear in all) was "One" by U2. Walker seemed convinced that his letters never reached Bono and were lost in the bureaucracy cloud that surrounds the band, but it's still a letdown for a U2 fanatic like myself who would prefer to enjoy an idyllic image of the group. First the Negativeland fiasco, now this.
The next day brought Pistoleros, a relatively meh entry from Best-Director-Name-Ever-Havin' Shaky Gonzalez. While this film is likely to draw comparisons to the work of Robert Rodriguez with its low budget action and gritty plotting, it's clearly more in love with the repertoire of Sergio Leone, drawing entire characters and situations from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The film centers on a director/producing team in Copenhagen trying to make a film about a legendary gangster. From three possibly unreliable sources, they are told three aspects of a tale involving the gangster, his two kids, a bunch of stolen money, and the nefarious hoods looking for it.