Wednesday, December 23, 2015

[Review] Youth

Paolo Sorrentino has always demonstrated a penchant for displaying lively, provocative, and beautiful frames often enhanced with memorable musical scores and songs, but sometimes the film's story underwhelms or takes too long for its payoff. The Michael Caine-starring Youth is no different.

Fred (Caine) is a retired composer and conductor vacationing in the Swiss Alps. Some of his acquaintances are trying to get him back into the game, but he's reluctant. The film is very slow-moving early on, just like its main character. During a massage scene, his daughter (Rachel Weisz) lists the health routine that she's devised for him, and Fred answers with "Now I'll get even more bored." And unfortunately, we can relate too much while watching this film.

The narrative is aggressively sluggish, and there are some questionable scenes that almost seem like tangents. As glacial as the pace is, we still don't have time to figure out what the fuck some of this stuff means. And maybe it doesn't mean anything. At least it's nice to look at, even though this aspect probably won't be worth it for most audiences. There are some gorgeous on-location shots that are often injected with hints of magical realism. The camera gracefully glides along and rotates, revealing a full dimension to the scenes, rather than just reveling in individual static shots.

The lush imagery is on par with Sorrentino's last two efforts, including the grand yet confounding The Great Beauty, which earned an Oscar win for Best Foreign Language film last year. Then there was 2012's leap into accessibility with his first English language film--the slyly endearing This Must Be The Place, which is worth a look, especially if you're interested in quirky aging mopey post-punk musicians turning over new stones. It also features a great musical sequence with David Byrne (The Talking Heads). Speaking of indie music... Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek briefly appears in the background of Youth to sing a nice little tune.

With all that said, the film is too snoozy and perplexing to fully embrace, and its nicest moments come when you're already thinking about going home to take a nap.


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