Youthful Abandon

It may not have felt like it at the time, but the Nineties was a remarkable decade for cinema. The American independent scene was booming, as the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater launched their careers. In Britain, it was just as exciting, as films like Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, The Full Monty and Four Weddings and a Funeral revitalised the local industry.

On the continent, the Danish-driven Dogme95 movement was changing the rules with Lars von Trier’s The Idiots and Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen, while Asian cinema emerged as a potent force – from the work of Takeshi Kitano and Shinya Tsukamoto in Japan to Hong Kong auteurs like John Woo and Wong Kar-Wai.

Now the BFI Southbank is offering the chance to revisit some of these classics in a two-month season entitled Nineties: Young Cinema Rebels. For those who were born in or after the decade, and therefore missed out on the chance to see these films on the big screen, this is the perfect opportunity to see the likes of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Linklater’s Slacker as they were meant to be seen.

Whilst youthful rebellion cannot be found in all the films in the series, it’s a prominent theme – be it the black British experience witnessed in artist Isaac Julien’s Young Soul Rebels, disenfranchised teens in a Parisian suburb in Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, murderous adolescents in Gregg Araki’s The Doom Generation or the heroin addicts of Danny Boyle’s defining take on Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.

There’s also room to honour directors whose careers never exploded, but made films that left a mark. Amongst them, Allison Anders’ portrait of sisterhood Gas Food Lodging and Rose Troche’s Go Fish, a lesbian drama that was a key film in the New Queer Cinema movement of the late Eighties and early Nineties. Gus Van Sant’s ground-breaker My Own Private Idaho also features.

With screenings of Kitano’s gangster masterpiece Sonatine and Tsukamoto’s cult cyberpunk tale Tetsuo: The Iron Man (technically a 1989 release, but we’ll forgive that anomaly) nestling alongside the new 4K transfer of 1999’s The Matrix, it’s an impressively diverse mix that’s been programmed and a fascinating opportunity to revisit what was, in retrospect, a golden era for film.

Nineties: Young Cinema Rebels runs at the BFI Southbank until 26 August. For more details, visit here.

James Mottram

1. Still from Gregg Araki’s
The Doom Generation.