Teenage Dreams

Director Matt Wolf's History of Adolescent Rebellion Tells the Tale of the Original It Girl

BAFTA award-winning actor Ben Whishaw narrates the story of elegantly wasted 1920s socialite Brenda Dean Paul in today’s excerpts from Matt Wolf’s new documentary, Teenage. Taking cues from cult punk biographer Jon Savage’s whistle-stop social history of the same name, the director was attracted to the story of Paul, played by Leah Hennessey, for its modern resonances. “She seems like a Lindsay Lohan figure,” he says of the aristocrat who was considered one of the 'Bright Young Things' alongside Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton. “The public loved to hate her. She was wealthy, famous for being famous, and the paparazzi were obsessed with her.” Though the film features still photographs of Paul and its other subjects—including proto-punk Tommie Scheel, who held illegal swing jazz parties in Nazi Germany—very little footage of these characters exists today, so Wolf filled in the blanks himself. “I didn’t really have a choice but to shoot my own archival footage,” says the filmmaker whose previous documentaries explored the lives of late avant-garde artists Arthur Russell and Joe Brainard. “We used old hand-crank 16mm film cameras, made duplicates of prints and then hand-scratched and transferred them to create layers of degradation.” The feature also includes narration from Jena Malone, Jason Schwartzman as executive producer and an original soundtrack from Deerhunter’s soulful Bradford Cox. “There is a nostalgic quality to Bradford’s music but it’s a totally new sound,” says Wolf. “Those are the film’s artistic goals: to use material from the past but remix it in a way that feels contemporary.”

Teenage is in cinemas January 24 in the UK via Soda Pictures and March 14 in the US via Oscilloscope.

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  • ON REPLAY
    ON REPLAY

    The Painted Lady: Jena Malone

    Liz Goldwyn Directs the Award-Winning Actor in a Dark Burlesque Portrait

    Perched in a dreamy rose garden, a seductive and melancholic Jena Malone narrates this poetic 19th-century-inspired short by filmmaker and author Liz Goldwyn. Part of a series of works devoted to demystifying the sex industry, The Painted Lady casts the future Hunger Games: Catching Fire star—who made her name in Donnie Darko and Saved!—as a young woman who recalls an encounter with a lushly powdered call girl. As Malone's distinctive voice glides over the hazy footage, intercut shots transform her baby-faced ingénue into a defiant, colorfully made-up femme fatale against a floral backdrop. Only 21 when the vignette was filmed six years ago, the actor’s performance was informed by her own personal transformation at the time. “I was definitely a girl on the verge," explains Malone. "Liz had the sense to see the woman that was crystallizing inside of me. It felt comfortable and somewhat voyeuristic—like the woman I was to become was having a muse’s sitting with my younger self, asking her to remember things." Much like Goldwyn's acclaimed HBO documentary Pretty Things, an exploration of American Burlesque culture, The Painted Lady and its sister project, Sporting Guide, spark discussion of broad social issues, such how our view of the body impacts feminine identity. “In all the work that I do I'm promoting an intelligent conversation about sex,” the director explains. “Jena might look glamorous, but there's a lot of darkness in these stories.”

    (Read More)
  • MOST SHARED IN CULTURE
    MOST SHARED IN CULTURE

    Roman Coppola x Jason Schwartzman

    A Quick-Witted Love Letter From Indie Hollywood's Favorite Cousins

    Film royalty Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman conspire with YouTube virtuoso Graydon Sheppard of “Sh*t Girls Say” fame to create today’s videogram, which features the cousin duo bantering on love and obsession. Shooting six-second vignettes on the iPhones inspired by Twitter’s new mobile app Vine, Sheppard pays homage to Coppola’s latest feature A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, whose comic flavor hinges on absurdist amorous pursuits. The film stars Charlie Sheen as an unrepentant LA playboy who spirals out of control when his girlfriend leaves him and enlists the help and guidance of best friend Kirby Star—played by Schwartzman—to win her back in a 1970s-style romp complete with surreal revenge fantasies and winking parallels to Sheen’s own very public meltdown. A recent Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay, Coppola is the son of polymath Francis Ford and brother of fellow filmmaker Sofia; Schwartzman, meanwhile, has made a name for himself starring in Wes Anderson films from Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom, on which Roman collaborated, and cousin Sofia's Marie Antoinette. From major film production to casual smart phone clips, Coppola and Schwartzman know how to keep their sense of humor, while keeping it in the family. We caught up with Roman to go deeper into his amorous inspirations. 

    First serious kiss:
    It was in Morocco. I was 16. The girl was an actress in a movie I was working on. We started off kissing through a piece of fabric—as a tease, she was holding back. Then, the real thing.

    Favourite romantic exchange in movie:
    Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Or a more cynical choice, from Gilda:

    Johnny Farrell: I want to go with you, Gilda. Please take me. I know I did everything wrong...
    Gilda: [sobbing] Isn't it wonderful? Nobody has to apologize, because we were both stinkers, weren't we? Isn't it wonderful?
    Johnny Farrell: Wonderful.

    Craziest thing you've ever done for love:
    I can't think of anything too crazy.

    Love song-cum-guilty pleasure:
    “I melt with you,” by Modern English.

    (Read More)

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