Beyond Clueless (Charlie Lyne, 2014)

I previously talked about this essay film in a preview last October, and I finally managed to see it this week after it was added to Netflix. I had backed it in a Kickstarter campaign so I’ve had loads of updates from the engine that is Charlie Lyne, a man who has filled the project with as much man hours as he has passion.

Lyne covers the recurring themes we see in teen movies, taking an in-depth look at some key films on each topic. It takes the form of a long essay split into five sections: “Fitting In”, which deals with characters attempting to fit in and conform to their stereotypes (Mean Girls, Cruel Intentions); “Acting Out”, which looks at characters rebelling against suppression and leaving their comfort zones to break the status quo (Bubble Boy, Idle Hands); “Losing Yourself”, a discussion on characters who are keen to explore the wider world (Euro Trip, Jeepers Creepers); “Toeing The Line”, about characters having to conform to stereotypes or trying to break the brainwashed mould (The Faculty, Josie and the Pussycats); and “Moving On”, which explores themes of characters either needing to grow up or not wanting to (13 Going On 30, Drive Me Crazy). These are neatly bookended by a prologue and an epilogue, which tie the themes together nicely.

The film received criticism on its release, perhaps due to the fact it is an essay film and that is a slightly unusual format. Don’t get me wrong, this would have worked perfectly well as an essay, but the content lends itself to being delivered in this visual medium. There aren’t any topics that fall outside the content of teen films and the production team has meticulously sourced footage from every film discussed, which aids the digestion of the discussion points. The concept seems so obvious it’s a surprise it hasn’t been done more often.

Fairuza Balk’s powerful voiceover further endorses the content of the film, and this is further enhanced by an excellent soundtrack by Summer Camp. The script shows a passion for the subject matter that can sometimes lead to the content being given a little too much gravitas. This is never more prominent than the section discussing Euro Trip, which is one of my least favourite films of all time. I found it banal and tacky, but here it sounds like one of the greatest films ever made – I actually want to re-watch it to make sure I haven’t missed anything. In many ways, this is just testament to the passion of the scriptwriters, particularly Lyne, and can hardly be a justifiable criticism.

It’s a film that won’t do much for people who don’t like teen films and will also be lost on anyone unfamiliar with most of the films discussed. It’s a celebration of the genre and works as a great boost to go and re-watch a heap of teen films.

Beyond Clueless is available to stream on Netflix now in the UK.

Upcoming Crowdfunded Films Preview Part One: Beyond Clueless

There are a three crowd-funded films I’m pretty excited about: Beyond Clueless from Charlie Lyne; Elstree 1976 from Jon Spira; and The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie from James Rolfe. All three are extremely talented people who opted to crowd-fund their projects, and succeeded way ahead of their target dates.

Crowd-funding is a double-edged sword. In an ideal scenario, you get the money you need to complete your project and ensure you have an audience of backers who are all on board from the start, getting e-mails on a regular basis updating them with all the latest progress as it happens. It also gives you a bit of impetus to finish it on time as you have 100s or 1000s of people to keep happy.

The negative side of crowd funding is that you can end up highly embarrassed if you fail to get enough backers and your project falls flat on its face. There have been some big-name stars who’ve fallen foul of this for a variety of reasons, usually because they set their target too high (see Bjork’s failed Biophilia app campaign) or they didn’t come up with enough interesting rewards at appropriately-pitched prices.

These boys have got it right so I thought I’d write about them and give them the attention they deserve. I’ll start with Beyond Clueless, with the other two covered over the next week.

Beyond Clueless still 4

I’ve been a backer of this campaign for almost two years now and thus feel wholeheartedly part of the journey that all backers have gone on with writer and director Charlie Lyne, who makes a living as a columnist to The Guardian and as the editor of film blog Ultra Culture. With regular updates to all the backers and exclusive videos and artwork sent out to us all (and preview screenings), this was a crowd-funding campaign that has been executed perfectly by Lyne and maintained my interest throughout, and this in turn has evidently generated a lot of buzz around the project.

The film is essentially a review and dissection of the teen movie genre narrated by Fairuza Balk (American History X, Almost Famous). The press release states “Beyond Clueless is a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 modern teen classics”. I’m a big fan of many of the films covered, including Mean Girls, Clueless, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club (to name but a few). The film promises to draw comparisons by interlinking scenes of different films and commenting on the themes and critically analysing all the films it covers – no easy achievement considering the breadth of the subject. Judging by the backer updates, Lyne is clearly very passionate about the subject matter and so everything will be dealt with the utmost respect.

The soundtrack is provided by the excellent Summer Camp and I’ve been listening to bits of it already and it’s absolutely perfect for this film. Plenty of it is available online and it’s well worth a listen. This is complimented by the highly stylised illustrations surrounding the film, provided by Hattie Stewart. She has done wonders to create a brand for the film and help nurture the buzz, and this can’t be underestimated.

Having read some reviews, there has been some criticism of Balk’s narrative and also of the cutting techniques used by Lyne to produce the final edit. This all remains to be seen when the film arrives locally – I’ll be at the QUAD screening in Derby when tickets and times are released. On a side note, there is a mini tour going on to promote the film and if you get chance to drop in to one of these screenings there’s quite a lot on offer, including Q+A sessions with Lyne and live soundtrack accompaniment from the aforementioned Summer Camp. They start on 13th January and go pretty much until the general release later in the month.

When it is finally released across the UK, I hope it gets the audience the team behind it deserve.

Beyond Clueless is on a promotional tour, with dates across the UK leading up to a wider release on 29th January 2015. All dates for the tour are on the official website.