Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Youth (La giovinezza) (2015)

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer:    Paolo Sorrentino
Cast:       Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano

A retired orchestra conductor (Michael Caine) is on a holiday with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and his film director best friend (Harvey Keitel), his daughter's soon to be ex-father-in-law as well, in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth to perform for Prince Philip's birthday.

Like Sorrentino's 'The Consequences of Love', this film also have a protagonist staying in a posh hotel and having an existential crisis. Last film of his- The Great Beauty, which won academy award in the Best foreign film category, also had a protagonist reflecting back on his life. When Sorrentino reaches Youth (Ironic title), the protagonist gets progressively older and it is a story of eternal struggle between age and youth, the past and the future, life and death, commitment and betrayal. Like all Sorrentino films, it is quite hard to describe and if you attempt to do that you will very much sound like a pretentious idiot. His films are what a normal audience would class as pretentious but I do enjoy them immensely. Youth is much more accessible than 'The Great Beauty' and there are plot related events to actually jolt the viewer into paying attention if they indeed drift. I haven't seen his only other English Language film (This Must be the Place) and I don't normally enjoy it when directors make films in languages in which they are not very comfortable. I didn't feel like that with this effort and dialog is minimal anyway.

Cast is quite great and it was good to see Harvey Keitel on this one. It was also good to see Paul Dano playing a normal natured kind of character. Alex Macqueen, Julius Nicholson (Baldemort) from The Thick Of It, plays the role of Queen's emissary and it would have been apt if his character was named Julius Nicholson in this one as well. In terms of the plot (Spoilers ahead), I understood it as Michael Caine's character finding his wife dead when he go and meets her in Venice after a gap of ten years. Which is why he decides to accept Queen's invitation. (Wiki says she is just senile but it looked like dead to me but if otherwise also it makes sense regarding his change in decision).  Also in that Harvey Keitel sequence, in which a stream of women appears in a surreal manner, seemed to have Caine's wife as well, which might be a suggestion of an affair between them.

It is a great watch if you are a fan of Sorrentino and know what is coming. If you haven't seen any other films of his, then you might be better off doing it one by one chronologically from his filmography to see the progression in themes. I wasn't as mind-blown as I was when I watched 'The Great Beauty' but it is nevertheless a great watch. Michael Caine will be a serious contender for Best Actor awards in this year's awards season.

Rating: 4/5