Arty young friends bond over electronic music inside their cool Parisian apartments. Some get tattooed, others reminisce about a time when New York City wasn’t “cleansed” yet (of drugs and sex shops), others chat on Facebook and proclaim to have fucked 10% of their friends (“out of 400”). This is the world of Jérôme de Missolz’s post-post-punk documentary essay film Kids of Today, an amalgam of inspired recollections by 1970s rock critic Yves Adrien, who suggests a gene splice of Iggy Pop and Max von Sydow from The Seventh Seal, and the enthusiastic youths’ obsessing over his avant-gardism.
While this uncataloguable and entrancing film gazes back in nostalgia to a time of performance-art priapism when everyone seems to have known Warhol, it also leaves room for a particularly hopeful diagnosis of the present. For Adrien, the film’s uncanny narrator, today’s excessive digital mediation serves to avoid confrontation with beauty, which, as he cites from Rilke, is where horror starts. Yes, the youth of today may be hyper-connected to its distractions, but at least in this particular circle of friends, all the Skyping, Facebooking, and Googling are, ultimately, tools for animated philosophical conversations about dissemination theory, intellectual affectation, and post-punk identity. Whether they’re dancing, smoking, performing, or being their pretentious pseudo-intellectual selves (they use terms like “ex nihilo” casually), they’re always looking for meaning, and wrestling with one another’s claims.
Adrien stitches the film together like a ghostly and fatherly wizard, offering us gems like “The only form modernity will ever take is pleasure” and “Modernity is not ever letting anyone come out on top.” Edwige Belmore, the androgynous muse of punk’s heyday also shows up to explain the meaning behind some of her tattoos and perform an amazing rendition of “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” The young kids soak it all in, not with the idiotic idolatry of disciplined pupils, but with the curiosity of those who haven’t been spoiled by privilege.