- GIANNI FIORITO
- SET DEL FILM "LA GIOVINEZZA" DI PAOLO SORRENTINO..NELLA FOTO MICHAEL CAINE E HARVEY KEITEL..FOTO DI GIANNI FIORITO
When Paolo Sorrentinos Youth played at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the audiences response reportedly split evenly between enthusiastic cheering and equally energized booing. That polarization came in large part because introspection is a tough pill to choke down, even when prescribed by a director with Sorrentinos immense talent.
Most of Youth takes place inside a secluded Alpine spa where composer/conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) vacations with daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) as well as his best friend and in-law, director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Fred tells all comers that he is retired and he will never again conduct his most beloved work, Simple Songs, no matter who requests it. While Fred runs away from his early accomplishments, Mick desperately tries to equal his earlier greatness as he hunkers down with a cadre of young screenwriters to craft Lifes Last Day, a film that will be his testament.
As the octogenarian artists grapple with their pasts, the younger vacationers around them despair over how they are perceived. Actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is most recognized for his appearance in a big-budget robot movie, but he wants to be known for weightier roles. And when Lenas husband (and Micks son) Julian (Ed Stoppard) leaves her for British pop singer Paloma Faith (playing herself), she takes it as a measure of her worth.
Sorrentino stocks Youth with characters bearing a strong resemblance to either a real person (especially true in Faiths case) or another character from Sorrentinos filmography. With his swept-back silver hair and thick frames, Caine appears to be channeling Jep Garbardella, Sorrentinos protagonist from 2013s The Great Beauty, and Fred is similarly coming to terms with age and his sense of accomplishment. Much more on point, Danos character is a barely camouflaged Shia LaBeouf, castigating fans that only know him for a clanking, big-budget monstrosity and feeling that the only recourse is to take on a purely evil role in his next film.
Keitels character carries the greatest weight in terms of reference points. Mick and his young scribes suffer from writers block on Lifes Last Day, and any resemblance to Guido Anselmi from Federico Fellinis 8 1/2 must be purely intentional. Mick is derived from Guido, who was a stand-in for Fellini himself, whose own work heavily influences Sorrentinos writing and compositional filmmaking style. Take a look at the extended fantasy in which Mick encounters actresses from his past or the surrealistic Roman travelogue in The Great Beauty, and prepare to experience strong echoes of 8 1/2, Roma and La Dolce Vita.
Caine is especially great at conveying the pride and privacy of an artist who wants to be left in Garboesque isolation. Fred rebuffs entreaties to revel in past glories, but is far more felicitous toward Jimmy Tree, who is seeking a way forward. Conversely, Jimmys youth and his struggle between depicting horror or desire in his acting proves instructive for Fred as he fitfully attempts to come to terms with his past.
Youth can come across on first viewing as unnecessarily opaque and pretentious, a case of Sorrentino taking a deep dive into his own navel, but it snaps together nicely on successive viewings as the ties between characters become more apparent and seemingly random scenes fit into place. With Youth, Sorrentino is still channeling his hero, but he chooses his heroes well.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T7CM4di_0c
Print headline: Musical Youth, Paolo Sorrentinos Youth continues the Oscar-winning directors love affair with Federico Fellini.