Youth (La Giovinezza) |(2015) Prime Video

May 9th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Paolo Sorrentino | Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Ed Stoppard | 118  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) their contemplate life and their married kids, Lena and Julian, (Wiesz and Stoppard).

YOUTH is a leisurely-paced drama that feels like a languorous troll down memory lane punctuated by explosions of dramatic choreography and entertaining vignettes from Jane Fonda, who plays an actress friend of the men; a voluptuous prostitute who services the male guests, and a couple who sit in silence at dinner, and an obese footballer who can barely breathe.

This riff on the pleasures of physical and emotional love has a three-stranded narrative that explores Lena’s sudden break-up with Julian, who has supposedly found a better lover (she spends the rest of the film talking about her own bedroom skills to anyone who’ll listen). Mick is meanwhile putting the finishing touches to a film script with the ‘legendary’ Brenda Morel (Fonda). Paul Dano, plays another filmmaker guest and stooge for Fred as the two shoot the breeze 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 touching 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 Consequences of Love, Sorrentino’s first and most satisfying film to date.

Very much a case of style over substance, Youth occasionally feels like a series of interesting moments strung together rather than a satisfying whole. That said, it looks fabulous, Luca Bigazzi continues to wow us with some dazzling camerawork including a magnificent sequence of St Marks Square, and Venice sinking into the sea. There is plenty to enjoy performance-wise thanks to the sterling talents of Keitel, Caine and the rest of the starry cast, Youth is great while it lasts but instantly forgettable once the credits have rolled. MT

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