Youth (La Giovinezza)

Film Reviews

Navyo reviews Paolo Sorrentino’s new film: “A gem!”

Youth film posterThis film is about age, not just youth. Although the point is – at least for the characters in the film – youth becomes a prominent thought and desire as the body declines. It’s set in the context of a friendship – a composer (Michael Caine) and screenwriter (Harvey Keitel), friends since childhood – as they try to regain health, and maybe youth, in a spa in Switzerland.

The people that occupy Sorrentino’s films, his previous being the 2014 Oscar winning Best Foreign Film, The Great Beauty, seem mildly innocuous, somewhat bored with life and even irritating, yet they manage to portray deeper meanings far beyond their surface. It’s as if both of these films were shot in subtext. Even when there is no dialog – especially when there is no dialog – meaning is deftly portrayed by actors with a powerful ability to deliver this subtext with just an expression.

Relationships are a central theme in Youth. The relationship between a father (Caine) and daughter (Rachel Weisz), and the truth that becomes exposed during their time at the spa. And perhaps the most touching of all, the relationship between a husband (Caine) and unseen wife that gives the film it’s most powerful scene. It’s an unnerving and deeply touching moment that is heightened by David Lang’s moving score, seen performed live at a concert that closes the film.

Keitel’s screenwriter is both clutching at life with a final attempt at glory in writing his last movie script, yet realizing it is beyond his grasp. This gets hammered into him by a movie star friend (Jane Fonda) who has appeared in all his films. The scene in which she comes to the spa to tell him is Fonda at her toughest and leads to another of the film’s turning points.

A side relationship in the film is with the composer and a young movie actor (Paul Dano) who can’t shake off a role and is at the spa to create some space in himself for a new one. The role he finds is both shocking and hilarious.

Location is a character of itself in Sorrentino’s films. In The Great Beauty it was Rome. Here, it is an elegant hotel spa in the alps. Not one of his shots is wasted. Every frame of every scene counts in the storytelling. With magnificent cinematography by Luca Bigazzi (who also shot The Great Beauty), it’s a wonder to watch and worthy of a big screen.

One can’t but help compare Caine’s composer with Tony Servillo’s playboy in The Great Beauty. They even look alike, Caine an older version. Maybe this was Sorrentino’s way of a sequel. Both films are top rate filmmaking and acting and deserve watching more than once.

The soundtrack to Youth, although unavailable as a download, is a work of art. The composer David Lang has excelled himself with the closing piece. It’s a gem of a score and Youth is a gem of a film. You might not get it at first look, but it gets under your skin long after the credits.

Review by Navyo, Osho News

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