Theresa May is the new Thatcher. Trump is the new Reagan. Empires are dying in Afghanistan. East-West tensions are running high. And U2 are touring ‘The Joshua Tree’.
Yes, the 80s are back, and what better way to celebrate than with a double bill at Bíó Paradís, with a couple of new films set in the second “Me Decade.” To complete the set, there are party screening of 80s originals ‘Flashdance’ and Icelandic classic ‘Með allt á hreinu’ on Friday June 30 and Saturday July 1, respectively.
The 90s saw a slew of 60s and 70s nostalgia films, including Richard Linklater’s acclaimed ‘Dazed and Confused’. His latest offering, ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’, is a sequel of sorts, set in 1980 and about a group of college baseball players who, well, want some (!!). While the characters are rather unengaging in this quest to get some, the atmosphere is true to the teen films of the period. They go through discos, punk shows and even line dancing, giving Linklater a chance to recreate the various fashions. And the music, from Blondie to Dire Straits, is suitably nostalgia inducing. After ‘Boyhood’, one of the most interesting movies ever made, this seems rather slight, kind of an arthouse ‘Porky’s’, itself made in 1981 but set in the 50s. But as a period piece, it works reasonably well.
Five years later and pop music is already in decline, but still has a few punches left. It is this that is the theme of ‘Sing Street’ by John Carney (best known for Irish musical drama ‘Once’). We have moved from a Texas University to a Catholic elementary school in inner-city Dublin. Aidan Gillen, the only person to star both in The Wire and ‘Game of Thrones’, a sure mark of quality, plays a broke architect in a failing marriage. Unfortunately, the film focuses on his son, who wants to form a band to impress an older girl. Yes, we were all in band in the late 80s (or early 90s) to impress girls. But that is not enough.
After all, this was the era of Live Aid, when people still believed rock and roll could change the world, but perhaps it was already losing hope. Sing Street (what a crappy name for a band) opt for futurism, The Cure and Joy Division and even Duran Duran. The synthesizer here was new and exciting, as was the music video, while the washed-up older brother still has long hair (Linklater also gives us a 60s throwback in an older student, the final gasp of hippiedom). The 80s were probably the last decade with its own sound and its own style, before everyone started looking backwards.
The happy couple, having no money and no friends, decide to set off for the big city. Where, no doubt, everything will be lovely. Even for a juvenile film this seems, well, juvenile. After too many scenes with so-so 80s sounding music, it makes you wish you were watching a real 80s biopic instead. Where is my ‘Control’?
Linklater and Carney are born a decade apart and have both presented an idealized version of their youth. Perhaps it’s the generational shift that is now bringing us 80s nostalgia, but somehow it still doesn’t look as good as the 70s. Having been a schoolboy on the British Isles in the 80s, not in Dublin but in Leeds, I remember this all too well. I don’t want to go there again. Bring me back the 60s. Nostalgia works best when it’s someone else’s.