Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Ed Stoppard.
118MIN Drama Italy
Sorrentino’s second film in English, YOUTH, opens with the Sicilian director’s signature razzmatazz and rhythm: a girl singing on a revolving bandstand in a luxurious Swiss mountainside Hotel, possibly Davos. This is where Michael Caine, as retired conductor Fred Ballinger, is meditating the future – missing his wife but not his music. Joined by his film director friend, Mick (Harvey Keitel) as they contemplate their lives and their married kids, Lena and Julian, (Wiesz and Stoppard respectively), they indulge in witty truisms. YOUTH is a leisurely-paced drama that feels like a languorous troll down memory lane punctuated by explositions of dramatic choreography and entertaining vignettes from Jane Fonda, as a actress friend of the men, a gorgeous prostitute who services the male guests, a couple who sit in silence at dinner (like the pair in Consequences of Love) and an obese footballer who can barely breathe.
Weaving through the evergreen themes of ageing, memory and the continued fulfillment of physical and emotional love, the three-stranded ‘storyline’ explores Lena’s sudden break-up with Julian, on the grounds that he has found a better better lover, (she spends the rest of the film in justifying why she’s good in bed to anyone who’ll listen), a visit by an emissary from Her Majesty requesting a private performance for Prince Philip of his “Simple Songs” and Mick’s efforts to complete his film script with the ‘legendary’ Brenda Morel (Fonda). As a side show, Paul Dano, plays another filmmaker guest, who empathises with Fred on the subject of fame and being type-cast for one’s previous successes.
YOUTH works best in the scenes involving Keitel and Caine who create some tenderly emotional moments and pleasant comedy. Caine is especially good as the staid yet sensitive ageing conductor – he’s similar in some ways to Toni Servillo’s Tito di Girolamo in Sorrentino’s Consequences of Love, Sorrentino’s first and most satisfying drama.
Like The Great Beauty, this is a film that looks fabulous but occasionally feels like a series of interesting moments strung together rather than a cohesive story. That said, Luca Bigazzi’s masterful and inventive camerawork continues to wow us with some spectacular visuals including a magnifient sequence of St Marks Square, Venice sinking into the sea. There is also plenty to enjoy performance-wise with reliable and solid gold talents of Keitel and Caine but ultimately though this feels rather a hollow experience of style over substance. MT
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | REVIEWED AT CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 13 -24 MAY 2015 | IN COMPETITION | CANNES 2015