Not Fade Away (2012)

Sometimes truly sensational movies largely go unnoticed. This is a film of joyful importance, so see it.

Rating: Can be seen anywhere, particularly if you have a great sound system. Regardless, hunt down the soundtrack.

Not Fade AwayTo quote a comment appearing in Rolling Stone, Not Fade Away by Writer/Director David Chase is a “love letter to rock and roll”. Seen through the eyes of a group of high school graduates and their girlfriends wrestling with the profound changes occurring in the 1960’s as they try to start a rock band, it is a colossal reminder of what it means to be young.

Having already proved his enormous talent with his creation of the long-running TV hit, The Sopranos (1999-2007), Mr. Chase also proves to be a great historical observer of our own country. Here, he opens the door for viewers like me to relive a time that is all but misunderstood to this very day.

All of the young people are genuinely superb, and it is worth noting that their actual names are unrecognizable. I don’t mean to insult them by leaving them go personally unmentioned, but they will all quickly earn your praise.

The importance of Not Fade Away is found both from Mr. Chase’s recreation of the turmoil of the 1960’s and Steve Van Zandt’s supervision of an extraordinary musical score. They teamed up in The Sopranos, and the boys strike pay dirt once again.

To begin with, the movie concentrates on the time spanning 1963 through 1967. In October of 1963, most American families were no different than those of the 1950’s. However, everything changed in November with the assassination of JFK followed 3 weeks later by the release of the first Beatles song on radio. Adults were rankled as young people entered a new world, and a profound chasm was unintentionally created.

I must admit that I know this first hand, as I graduated from high school in Batesville, Indiana in 1965. Nearly all the kids graduating in 1963 adopted the roles and attitudes of our parents, while those like me entered a version of Adolphus Huxley’s “A Brave New World”.

Like 18-year old Douglas, whose father is played here by James Gandolfini, I entered college in the Fall of 1965 with a crew cut only to return home for Christmas that year with hair down to my shoulders. My father, a hardworking rural mail carrier and a veteran of World War II, had the same reaction as Mr. Gandolfini, namely “Get your hair cut, damn it, it looks like shit!”;

I wasn’t about to, and neither was Mr. Gandolfini’s son. I didn’t understand my dad any more than he understood me at the time, and the gap only widened. My parents continued to watch Lawrence Welk on TV while I and many others were immersed in the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Dave Clark Five. As Eric Burdon memorably sang,

We gotta get outta this place,

If it’s the last thing we ever do,

We gotta get outta this place,

Girl, there’s a better life for me and you.

In the film, Mr. Van Zandt is given full access to the music of the time. You see repeatedly actual footage of performances by Bo Diddley, Mike Jagger and Keith Richards, and it was astonishing to see a fresh-faced Mr. Richards performing long before he physically accumulated so many hard-earned miles.

Because so many musicians admired the music from the Sopranos, they waived any financial consideration for the use of their music by Mr. Chase and Mr. Van Zandt. As a result, you can forget your view of rock and roll today, as this movie allows you to again relive that powerful moment when you heard it for the first time.

The plot centers around Mr. Galdofini’s son as he tries to start a rock bond. They’re actually pretty darn good, and their performances on the screen leaves you believing that they have a chance of making it big. However, what you know from the opening sequence is that they soon faded into oblivion, and this is their story along the way.

If you’ve seen the full ad for the film appearing in the paper, you may understand why I find it so captivating. Two young people are kissing while standing fully clothed, and their youthful, polite energy is on full display. The ad reflects a key element of Chase’s film, involving two young people trying to learn if they really understand the meaning of love.

What Mr. Chase also touches on are other profound changes brought on by the 1960’s. I must admit that I resent beyond words many so-called conservatives who criticize the 1960’s as little more than a “make love, not war” era. They are wrong, dead wrong, and they know it.

To be young in the 1960’s began with the death of JFK in 1963 and the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968. At the end of that era, I went to the wedding of a man I admired, Father Patrick Smith, the head of the Theology Department at my alma mater known then as Marian College. He was a Franciscan priest (not to mention our golf coach) who, like other colleagues, abandoned his vows for many colossally difficult reasons that resulted in his death from a heart attack several years later.

In addition, Not Fade Away touches lightly on the developing impact of the Vietnam War. I always remind those who criticize the 1960’s to keep in mind that young boys like me were being sent to Vietnam by the fraudulent attempts of our own government to convince us that this was a good war. The names of over 50,000 young American men and women appear on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and their mothers will all describe the 1960’s as anything but a “make love, not war” era.

As I sat through the closing credits, I was reminded of the story where the legendary CBS Newsman Eric Sevareid visited his colleague, Charles Collingwood, who was in the hospital close to dying of cancer. Collingwood was a legendary newsman with great personal appetites, and his flamboyant escapades while covering World War II in France became legendary.

Mr. Sevareid, who hated hospitals, looked down at his emaciated friend and said, “Charles, Charles, is there anything I can do for you?” To which Mr. Collingwood smiled as he looked up and slowly said, “Yes there is, Eric, make me young again.”;

What a pity that Mr. Collingwood was denied the chance to see Not Fade Away.