My Generation is Michael Caine’s personal take on the swinging sixties; the decade that brought fame and success for many working-class upstarts in the world of film, music, fashion and the visual arts. As one of the film’s producers, Caine works with documentarian David Batty and screenwriters Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement to weave a portrait of a decade for which the term “unreliable narrator” seems to have been invented.
While there is much to enjoy from the doc’s immaculately restored archive footage, particularly of what areas like Soho, King’s Road and Carnaby Street looked like in the mid-60s, to the generous slice of British pop, culminating in a montage edited to Strawberry Fields Forever. Yet the film’s curious use of new interviews with David Bailey, Marianne Faithfull, Paul McCartney, Vidal Sassoon and others – only glimpsed in period footage not as they are now – while an aging Caine recasts himself not just as lucky movie star, but as cultural iconoclast leaves one with a distinct after-taste of vanity project.
While Caine, along with the likes of Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Tom Courtney and Terrence Stamp (Caine’s old roommate, who is a mysteriously silent voice) introduced a grittier kind of British actor to the world, it is a big stretch to position him as a revolutionary like David Hockney was to painting, The Beatles and Who to pop or John Osborne to theatre. Caine’s essential middle-of-the-road conservatism gets the better of him when he talks about his modest drug experiences and his politics are as shallow as one would expect of someone who lived in the US to avoid taxes in the 60s and 70s. As he is in his films, Caine is never less than likable, but what is missing is the bite and intelligence he gave in films like Educating Rita, Get Carter and Hannah and Her Sisters. My Generation is a rosy jaunt down memory lane, but it tells today’s viewers little about Caine and his peers that one hasn’t heard before.
Director: David Batty
Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
Stars: David Bailey, Michael Caine, Joan Collins