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Baker's Dozen

A Cinema Baker's Dozen: Jon Savage's Favourite Teenage Films
Mat Colegate , March 20th, 2014 11:33

With his new film Teenage released earlier this year, Jon Savage picks the top thirteen films that capture the spirit of adolescence

The subject of the teenager is one the journalist and critic Jon Savage, this month's Baker's Dozen interviewee, is uniquely qualified to comment upon. From his early days documenting the then dominant punk movement in the late seventies for the NME, Sounds and later Melody Maker, through his influential writings on pop culture for The Face and various broadsheets and his definitive history of the Sex Pistols and punk rock in his book England's Dreaming, youthful rebellion in all its myriad mutations and guises has been the underlying subject of nearly all his writing and criticism. His latest project, the film Teenage, based on his book Teenage: The Creation Of Youth Culture and directed by Matt Wolf, takes a little seen perspective however, beginning with the ending of World War One and carrying on through to the start of the fifties, using archive footage of subjects as disparate as twenties flappers and the German Wandervogel, and asking what the cultural forces were that shaped our image of the teenager as we know it today. Bringing to light the prehistory of a seismic cultural force in a way never previously examined.

The film is the culmination of a 34 year odyssey for Savage, who was first approached about a similar project by Granada TV in the late seventies, a project that was later canned. However, says Savage: "I realised that there was a pre-history to what everybody thought of as the story of the teenager, which was that it began in '54 with James Dean and Elvis Presley, so I started to read back. That's where the project began: with me finding a copy of this wonderful book by the American psychologist G. Stanley Hall, called Adolescence, which was published in 1904. I started thinking that this story really began in the late 19th/early 20th century with key works like The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. A lot of the early youth movements were very regimented, such as the Boy Scouts and later the Hitler Youth. But if youth is going to be regarded as something special then the more alert and spirited kids are going to think, 'Well what does this mean for us? If we're the future then lets do something about it, let's experiment.' What I see in a lot of youth cultures is a sort of questing spirit, to try out new things. To imagine what the future could be."

That questing spirit is represented in the choice of films below. Savage was asked to pick thirteen films that he thought best represented the spirit of the teenager captured on celluloid. His choices were as vibrant, contradictory and challenging as youth itself.

Click on the image below to begin scrolling through Jon's choices