Cult Column: Beyond Clueless (2014)

Youth is hypnotic, especially when it is found in the movies. With Beyond Clueless (2014), Charlie Lyne crafted a ‘teen movie’ odyssey in the pursuit of understanding not only the lure of the genre, but also the messages about humanity that lurk behind its comfortingly predictable sequences.

Lyre watched and analysed a library of teen movies stretching from 1995-2004, creating a collage of clips that together form a running narrative that is found within all these movies. The film is a cine-essay that proposes that these movies share an attempt to reflect an understanding of the human condition and experience at its most intensely potent stage: youth.

The movies unexpectedly harness a deep part of the psyche, and through its comforting familiarity they are able to subconsciously question the norm and the perception of the mundane. There is a never-ending quality to the film, the idea that we can forever be pulling at the seams of these movies, trying to understand more. Mixed in our memory are these polished frames, filled with twenty-something actors playing misunderstood teens with perfect teeth and hair.

The film is guided through chapters, the typical stages of the teen movie, beginning with the first day of school and ending with graduation. There is comfort found in the formulaic nature of the genre, which perhaps explains its draw: the reassurance of knowing exactly what will happen. The film utilises this idea of the expected to delve deeper into cliché and what it demonstrates about our own comprehension of life.

The familiarity of the films also adds to the dreamlike nature, as each feeds effortlessly into the next almost like a endless fantasy. We walk down the winding path, we recognise the red solo cups and the ugly beige walls and along the way we might just lose what is our own memory and what is just the movies.

It is an eternal untouchable world, locked un-aging behind the screen. Within these worlds exist our understanding of youth, or at least the fabricated, altered versions. Written by withered middle aged voices trying to rectify their own pasts, they thus become rose-tinted dreams wrapped up in bubble gum.

The film’s narrator is found in actress Fairuza Balk. Her evocative and sardonic voice guides us through, made more effective as she is also an insider due to her own teen movie background. The original soundtrack by Summer Camp enhances the hypnotic aesthetic and acts as a third narrator, revealing emotive elements through the music itself.

As much as the film dives into the unknown and questions our instincts and desires, it also does what all teen movies endeavour to do: resolves all problems, exactly as predicted. The cycle begins again: a new school year, a new class and a new misunderstood teen.

It is undeniable that there is something inherently alluring about these movies. It is in their clichéd characters and plotlines that they have forced their own identity and place on our collective cultural identity. The strength of teen movies is their common bonds and recognisable characteristics, each of which are like old friends with their familiar flow and colour.

Image: Josh Lanning via Flickr

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