Last night I finally watched “Beyond Clueless”, the found footage documentary about teenage movies by Charlie Lyne. I really wanted to see this film at the cinema, because FACT in Liverpool was showing it and then had a live Q & A with the creator but sadly I couldn’t make it on the night.
Firstly, the film is great. Lyne’s editing just slices through the footage like the sharpened scalpel of a master surgeon. His ability to pick out similar colours and themes from hundreds of films and resew them into a cohesive tapestry is amazing. The best way I can describe it is to say that he has painted with film clips. I know he’s dealing with slick pieces of Hollywood film making, so it seems obvious that the film would be very slick but a bad editor could easily spoil great footage. There were times when I even did not realise the film being referenced had changed because the shift was so cohesive.
There is a blog on tumblr called “Where I see Fashion” which parallels scenes from fashion shows or photography with moments in art or nature. I feel like this is an incredibly special skill. Some people’s minds work beautifully like this, connecting threads again to form a woven cloth of beauty. Charlie Lyne’s mind is beautiful in this way. I know American high school films have a lot of similar tropes; scenes under the bleachers, scenes in the bedroom…Also there’s a lot of explosions and blood? However, while it is not hard to see obvious clichés and similarities it is hard to pinpoint the exact same shade of red over ten different movies and then put them all together. That’s what Lyne does, and he does it incredibly.
However, my favourite thing about the whole film, even though it was fascinating in general and gave me a lot of new films to watch, was the quality of the narrator, Fairuza Balk’s voice. It’s gravelly, but incredibly smooth and relaxing. Her voice was also perfect for the subject matter and bears the tone of the rebellious outsider characters being referenced. Given that she plays Nancy Downs in “The Craft”, which is extensively talked about in the picture, my previous point that her voice fits perfectly is kind of moot. I really don’t care. It’s the perfect voice for this movie. It is really reminiscent of Jane from Daria, a low kind of intriguing purr that makes you want to lean in and really hear what she’s about to say. You also don’t hear a female voice over so often. I can’t remember the last full length documentary I watched which had a female voice over. I’ve seen TV shows presented by women, which have a female voice over on top additionally but I really can’t remember the last feature length documentary I watched with a female voice over. If you know of more documentaries with female voices please hit me up in the comments section and let me know, but a quick Google reveals that this seems to be a prevailing problem within this subset of the film industry, which to be honest is quite a bit of a boys club anyway.
Even though the title of the film was “Beyond Clueless” I was still really happy when all my favourite girly American high school movies were referenced. I’ve never felt that these films, such as Legally Blonde, needed any validation but so many people devalue them and pass them off as trivial chick-flicks. I hate that, but I really don’t want to start a huge rant about the representation of gender in film marketing at this exact moment in time. Do you know when you feel like you’re the only person in the world that likes something and then suddenly your friend mentions that they also like it? That’s what it felt like to have all my favourite teen movies mentioned in a documentary. You end up sat on your sofa like “Yes!! I love that one!” Initiation into a secret little club that just has you and Charlie Lyne in it. You, Charlie Lyne and Fairuza Balk’s beautiful, gravelly voice.