Director Matt Wolf’s History of Adolescent Rebellion Tells the Tale of the Original It Girl
BAFTA award-wining actor Ben Whishaw narrates the story of elegantly wasted 1920s socialite Brenda Dean Paul in today’s excerpt 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 latter-day 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.”
‘Teenagers’ didn’t always exist. In this living collage of rare archival material, filmed portraits, and voices lifted from early 20th century diary entries, a struggle erupts between adults and adolescents to define a new idea of youth.
Waiting, waiting, waiting, until I can watch this.
What’s in the hearts and minds of young University of Florida students? Let the concrete wall of Gainesville, FL speak. Each year the wall announces historic events, political views and personal revelations.