“The Cool School” is one of a subset of documentary biographies that might best be called “Scenes of Yesteryear.” Like the recent “Weather Underground,” “Commune,” and “American Hardcore”–whose respective subjects include radical terrorists, hippie collectives, and indigenous, anticommercial punk rock–“The Cool School” weaves testimony from participants of a faded fringe movement with footage from its heyday to take stock of the legacy of the marginal subculture in question. These are nostalgic, sometimes commemorative films employing a similar functional style to deliver content as practically as possible, and they’re so close to each other in quality that a misfire (“American Hardcore”‘s harried mess) usually isn’t all that far from a triumph (“Weather Underground”‘s precise portrait of revolutionary fanaticism).
As a result it’s hard to avoid faint praise even when recommending Morgan Neville’s “The Cool School,” which recounts Los Angeles’ frequently overshadowed 1950s and 1960s art scene. As “Scenes of Yesteryear” documentaries go it does right by its subject, providing an illuminating primer on a lesser-known strand of America’s eruptive postwar art movement, even as it doesn’t do much aesthetically to distinguish itself from the pack.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s review.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.