Reviews - Youth
Reviewed By Vaughan Ames
Youth was a film about the problems and pleasures of growing old, based around two ageing artists. The story (if indeed there really was one) is set in an expensive Swiss Spa and revolves around Michael Caine who plays Fred Balinger, a conductor/composer. At the start we meet him being implored by the Queen's emissary to conduct his world famous masterpiece at Prince Philip's birthday party; even with the obvious bribe of a knighthood, he refuses. Fred is a man who has retired from life and is content to let his apathy run the rest of his life.
His best and oldest friend Mick Boyle, played by Harvey Keitel, is a famous movie director. Mick is at the spa with a cohort of fellow screenwriters trying to finish a film script which he thinks will be his magnum opus, but they are struggling to finish the last scene. Mick is a man who is never going to stop striving; he wants to hang on to what youth he can, always looking for a better future.
The two of them wander round the grounds, into the pool, into the bar, talking about their youth (Did Mick remember an old girlfriend?) and their old age (had he succeeded in passing any water today!). They are aided in the plot and the humour by Fred's daughter (Rachel Weisz) – full of angst over her relationship with her husband – and a young actor, Jimmy Tree – a vital part, played brilliantly by Paul Dano, who starts as a hippy with few cares in the world then dresses as Hitler and upsets everyone...you just have to see it to understand!
The acting was good all round; I was never a Michael Caine fan but he has definitely improved with age, and Jane Fonda's short but bright appearance as a pastiche of ageing movie stars everywhere brought further laughs.
The humour is all very deadpan but had the audience laughing out loud. It was, as I said, unexpected for me. Some of it was just sweet; watching Fred conduct some cows in a meadow, with their bells playing in time with the music in his head was priceless!
I was hoping for a sumptuous, beautiful film, and I wasn't disappointed. Paolo Sorrentino directed, and his last film was 'The Great Beauty', which won an Oscar as best foreign film (Youth is only his second film in English), was full of stunning shots of Rome which were breath-taking. Youth continued this for me – every frame felt like it was a tableau, an oil painting, and the camera lingered on each shot giving you time to take it all in, before moving slowly to the next scene.
I won't tell you the end of the story (as you will hopefully get chance to see it, even if only on DVD), but there is some beautiful music which had much of the audience in tears (I was one of them). Overall, one of my favourite films of the year.
The Film Club now takes a break for the summer; thank you to all who have supported us. We'll be back in September and hope that many of you will join us for another season of world films you won't get to see elsewhere (on the big screen at least). Meantime we hope you all have a great summer. Don't forget the Alhambra continues all the year – we are so lucky to have such a great cinema in Keswick; keep your eye on the Reminder for the program of films there. If you want to know more about the history of the Alhambra, there is now a book available ('Will You Take Us In Please?'), written by our own Ian Payne which will tell you all about it. Hope to see you there!
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