Born 85 years ago today as Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, the British acting icon became Michael Caine as he stood in a phone-box in London and had to change his surname to join Equity there and then. Upon seeing a poster for the Humphrey Bogart-starrer ‘The Caine Mutiny’, history was made and some 167 film credits later, he’s still on top form. Tonight at the BFI in London saw the screening of his new documentary My Generation, followed by a great Q&A hosted by Edith Bowman.
Directed by David Batty, the film is a product of over six years of work from hundreds of sources and they’ve produced a documentary that’s vibrant, exciting and – most importantly – really insightful. Whilst My Generation doesn’t specifically analyse the 1960s, it does take us on a sincerely unique journey and that’s the personal story of Michael Caine’s rise to the top and how the London-world around him changed dramatically as the youth of the time broke down the barriers of class divide.
Batty introduces us to Caine through the opening of The Ipcress File before it blends into footage of him ‘today’, driving around London in a very fine car. The motive of this move is to remind us that it’s his vision of the story, and so takes us effortlessly inside the time. Whereas some documentaries drift back and forth through archive footage and interviews with the famous faces involved, it’s Caine who talks to the likes of Paul McCartney, David Bailey, Marianne Faithfull, Roger Daltrey and Mary Quant, and although we never see their individual ‘now’ faces, they do share their stories over vivid archive footage.
My Generation is fascinating from start to finish and it’s helped by honest memories alongside real moments from the 60s. The importance of this genuine nature is vital because we learn through the interviews that the people they were then, is still who they are today. It’s interesting to see how even the likes of McCartney and Mick Jagger were questioning, even then, why the mainstream media were pushing for private stories of their lives when – in truth – surely what you do in your time, is your business? It’s clear that the youth who took over London were there to change things, they were told of a ‘better time’ but no-one had seen it and finally their time had come and consequentially the influence was huge both in the UK and in the States.
Batty’s documentary is a smart collaboration that’s clear to see, and it’s helped by curious, entertaining stories juxtaposed with snappy editing that captures the attention with bright, vivid archive footage that puts us right back where Caine once was. It celebrates the time with absolute abundance and My Generation is backed by the perfect soundtrack packed full of top tunes, which is unusual for any film or documentary usually due to cost, and I feel this might have been down to Caine’s involvement and also a certain Simon Fuller.
As Michael Caine mentioned in the Q&A with the ever-excellent Edith Bowman, it is David Batty’s direction that keeps the spirit flowing and so coupled with captivating tales from the time, it really is an absolute must-watch for every generation.
My Generation was screening for one-night only across the UK on 14 March.
Keep an eye on their Twitter feed for any future announcements, and keep an eye out for an upcoming mini-series that’ll expand the documentary into individual, more extensive parts.