Aging, if we’re lucky, is something that happens to all us. And yet, despite the many billions of industry and consumer dollars devoted annually to anti-wrinkle creams and everything else under the sun to stop the inexorable march of time, it’s a topic we’d at all costs rather avoid than have a honest societal discussion about — witness Sarah Palin‘s willfully gross distortion of end-of-life counseling services during the national health care debate, turning them into “death panels” coming to snatch your grandparents out of their homes and euthanize them in the street.
Mark Wexler’s How to Live Forever, then, is a refreshing and entertaining documentary look at aging, because it embraces the natural anxiety and discomfort the subject engenders, and emerges as a richer rumination on life for it. Spurred on by the death of his mother and his own maturation, Wexler embarks on a worldwide travelogue to at first investigate the possibilities of scientific life-extension — including cryogenics and biotechnological advances which allow for certain genes to be added and others to be turned off, (theoretically) stopping and even reversing the process of physical aging. Along the way, though, his film morphs into a sort of souffle of comic poignance, exploring what it means to grow old through the borrowed eyes of a wide variety of colorful and intriguing characters.
The sheer variety of Wexler’s interview subjects makes How
to Live Forever an utter delight. There are a handful of well known figures, from 93-year-old comedienne Phyllis Diller to 96-year-old fitness evangelist Jack Lalanne, but they’re interspersed alongside “regular” folks like a 74-year-old Japanese porn star and Buster Martin (above), a 101-year-old unrepentant British chain smoker who still works washing vans, and swills beer while running marathons. The movie flits to and fro, intellectually, but never in a manner that becomes either boring or off-putting. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. For more information on the movie, meanwhile, click here. (Variance, unrated, 93 minutes)