Film review, written by Maysa Moncao (Our reviewer in…Toronto) of the drama starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. To leave your comments or to like this review, please scroll to the bottom.
It is no secret that whenever there is a preview by Paolo Sorrentino there is a kind of foggy frisson in the air. What is he bringing to us this time?
Sorrentino sets his movie against the perfect summery backdrop of the Swiss Alps, in a spa in Davos, where Thomas Mann wrote Death in Venice. And although Sorretino didn’t admit he chose Davos because of that, we can surely add the atmosphere of Mann’s book and Visconti’s adaptation to Youth. This film, though, is dedicated to Francesco Rosi, another icon of Italian cinematography.
Fred (Michael Caine) is a retired composer and conductor (just like Mann’s main character, Gustav Aschenbach) who has been coming for decades to the spa. He has personal reasons for abandoning his career, whose peak is a composition he pretty much dislikes, again just like Mann’s main character. Mick (Harvey Keitel) is an American filmmaker who came to the spa to finish his new screenplay along with a group of young collaborators. Mick shouts that this is going to be his masterpiece though, in fact, he is aware that his best years are gone, just like Marcello Mastroianni’s character in 8 & 1 /2.
The frequent quotations Sorrentino shows us are not restricted to the characters of Visconti and Fellini, but also in the surreal images he recreates of the famous scenes. The most memorable one here is the dream with dozen of women in 8 & 1 /2 that are threatening/seducing the writer Mastroianni. The same will occur to Keitel. But there are other quotations, such as the boat in Venice in Visconti’s opera d’arte. Here though who will die is not the most depressed artist, but the most disturbed.
The spa is also a microworld for the parade of several other characters surreally created by Sorrentino. In Caine’s words: “The entire cast is brilliant”.
In fact if we may consider Youth a symphonic and harmonic piece, where no actor tries to shadow the other, this is an effect of the Sorrentino’s generous method. Co-star Rachel Weisz confesses: “How a director creates the tone of a movie is a mystery to me”.
Keitel emphasizes that “Youth is about the struggle for existence we all share”.
Here in Youth, Sorrentino has lost a bit of the soaring tone that we find in The Great Beauty and in This Must Be the Place. The final confrontation with a tragic death, always symbolized by Hitler and the Holocaust, now comes with a gag. A gag performed by a clown in Hitler’s (Paul Dano) costume. So much like Fellini again.
Although quotations usually diminish the impact of a movie and can probably constitute a mistake, in Sorrentino this is not the case. Because his quotations are already part of his speech. He uses the same words of his fathers/predecessors filmmakers, but builds his own style, his own language. The mystery of a such a vivid style is said by one of his characters: “I am always going home. I am always going back to my father’s house.” Sorrentino’s insistence in going back to his father’s house is exactly what makes him go further.
See the official trailer on Youtube.
ITALY, FRANCE,UNITED KINGDOM, SWITZERLAND, COMEDY, 2015, 123 MIN
DIRECTOR: PAOLO SORRENTINO
WITH MICHAEL CAINE, HARVEY KEITEL, RACHEL WEISZ, PAUL DANO, JANE FONDA
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Sorrentino is the one of the most creative writer-director in Italy nowadays. He won Cannes with “Il Divo” in 2008 and the Oscar for foreign movie with “The great beauty” in 2013. Another good movie by Sorrentino is “This must be the place”.