Mark Wexler’s “How To Live Forever” (2010) sometimes makes you think the opposite prospect is finer. You’re not getting older: you’re getting cuter! Nearly every subject, from the elderly Jack LaLanne to hand-weight-hoisting grannies to middle-aged gerontologists, are the documentary equivalent of what some people don’t like about Zooey Deschanel or your street corner “manic pixie dream girl”: Aren’t. These. Old. People. So. Fucking. Cute. Well, yes. Almost to the point of cute overload. “Exquisitely moving” is Wexler’s own phrase for the time he spent in the company of the world’s oldest people. He draws a contrast between two of his recently deceased subjects, fitness evangelist Jack LaLanne, 96, and a chain-smoking, beer-chugging English workingman named Buster Martin, gone at 104, but not before running the London Marathon at 101. Among the raspy-voiced chorus is Phyllis Diller, yacketing past 90, and a Japanese star of elder porn (which we glimpse). Gerontologists are hopeful, even if central subject Dr. Aubrey de Grey, publisher of the Rejuvenation Research journal and a Cambridge biogeneticist with his strange British voice and gather of long beard, seems like he wants to become Alan Moore before he kicks over. Optimism is plentiful, if not dignity. By comparison, the recent “Bill Cunningham New York” showed more tact and reserve toward its elderly subject. (Wexler’s own father, still-active cinematographer-activist Haskell Wexler, subject of Mark’s “Tell Them Who You Are,” turns a contentious 90 years old in February.) 94m. (Ray Pride)
“How To Live Forever” opens Friday at Siskel. Wexler appears at Friday-Sunday shows and will be joined Sunday by author Ted Fishman (“Shock of Gray”). A trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.