Third in the series of “A Director’s Place” autobiographical docus commissioned by BBC Scotland, Susan Seidelman’s “Confessions of a Suburban Girl” is a sparky, good-natured look at the helmer’s teen years in ’60s suburban Philly. More pointed and cohesive than previous entries by Nagisa Oshima and John Boorman, pic reps a strong buff item for fests and specialized webs.
Fronted and narrated by Seidelman herself as she returns to Huntingdon Valley , an “instant neighborhood” 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia, the film mixes slick reportage, interviews with old friends and ’60s docu memorabilia with B&W recreations of memories from her teens. Result is a fascinating footnote to the helmer’s career to date, as well as a perfect intro to her works.
Story starts with her family’s move at age nine to the safe, idealized suburb , where it was like living “inside a glass bubble.” At age 14 an eye problem of blurry vision gave “a very weird twist to the world I was growing up in–American suburbia of the 1960s.” Main chunk of pic is Seidelman and old girlfriends lolling around in a bedroom and playing a mature version of truth or dare. There’s lotsa confessions about growing up, boys, bowling, drive-ins and first sex, though Seidelman herself is coy on the last.
Per her schoolfriends, we learn Seidelman for a time called herself the more Gentile-sounding “Sue Seidel” and was considered “wild” by other parents.
Clips from the helmer’s “Desperately Seeking Susan,””Cookie” and “She-Devil” are slotted in to revealing effect, directly illustrating (according to Seidelman) earlier teenage incidents and fantasies. Movie buffs will get a big kick out of such juxtapositions, pure auteurist-theory stuff.
Tech credits are all excellent, with bright, clear 16mm lensing by Maryse Alberti, sharp cutting, and a bouncy ’60s-homage music track.