Day 4 Review – TCFF 2015 Gala Screening: Youth

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This is the first film from Paolo Sorrentino that I saw, as I missed his film The Great Beauty which won an Oscar foreign language winner in 2014. YOUTH is about about two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps, they’re in their 80s so you could say youth is behind them. Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, who brings along his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker.  

Mick is struggling to finish the screenplay with a team of enthusiastic young writers in tow, hoping to make his last film that would perhaps mark his legacy. Fred on the other hand, has left music behind him. The opening scene shows a rather amusing scene of him with a representative of the Royal Family, practically begging Fred to conduct an orchestra for the Queen. 

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The whole film is about these two men reflecting on their past in their own strange way. The point was whether each would find out that perhaps youth is really a state of mind, and that the most important experiences might still await them. The resort they’re staying at in the Alps made for some truly breathtaking shots. It could practically be a cinematic promotional brochure for real resort in the Swiss Alps area. The film also have some stunning shots in Rome and Venice.

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This is a quintessentially European film, with nonchalant scenes of nudity all around, both young and old. I’ve never seen so many old naked people in a single film before, and honestly, that’s not exactly something I enjoy. I guess it’s probably not a big deal for European filmmakers, I just don’t feel it’s necessary at all. It’s not shocking to me, the full frontal nudity doesn’t serve much purpose. I have to say that there are quite a few bizarre moments on display. Some works, some feels gratuitous. One of the most amusing scenes was when Fred was conducting a bunch of cows in a dream sequence, and later towards the end Mick was haunted by the *ghosts* of all the actresses from his film.

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I feel that Sorrentino is more of a visual director, as the imagery are definitely more memorable here than the narrative. I’m not saying there isn’t any emotional scenes, there are a few that come to mind, but the visuals are far more overpowering. The performances are good all around however. I’ve seen Caine in a lot of supporting roles where I feel he’s just phoning it in, so it’s nice to see him deliver a compelling performance and really got into his character. I’m not the biggest Keitel fan but he’s really good here as well.

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Rachel Weisz offers a memorable supporting turn in a subplot about her being ditched by her husband. I find that I sympathize with her plight more than the two leading men, and her performance was quite heart-wrenching. There is a heartfelt father/daughter relationship between her and Caine, and there is a memorable conversation between the two of them when they’re both covered up in mud in a spa. Paul Dano proved once again he is one of the best working actors of his generation. He plays a famous actor who’s disillusioned with his career and some of his acting choices. Jane Fonda and Romanian model Madalina Ghenea both had a very memorable cameo, but for two very different reasons. You’ll see it when you see the film and that might serve as not-so-subtle message about youth and growing older.

Overall I was entertained by YOUTH and there are definitely some memorable visuals from start to finish. Whether this film will resonate with me in the long run remains to be seen however, as it didn’t move me as much as I had hoped.

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Have you seen YOUTH? Well, let me know what you think!