Comments on watching and making films.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DVD - Youth Without Youth

It's been ten years since Francis Ford Coppola's last, credited, film as a director (he did directorial and editing work on a film called Supernova, when the studio was unhappy with the cut the original director turned in). Youth Without Youth represents Coppola's return both to directing, and, supposedly, to his roots as an independent filmmaker.

Tim Roth plays an elderly professor of linguistics who, on his way to Bucharest to kill himself, is struck by lightning, burning his body badly, but leaving him still alive. He wakes up in a hospital and is presided over by a medical doctor/professor played by Bruno Ganz (who was incredible in Downfall). Roth's Dominic begins to make leaps and bounds in his recovery, and when they remove his bandages, the professor and other doctors find Dominic to be a man in his late thirties/mid forties, as opposed to the seventy + years old he claimed to be when he still had the bandages. Through this accident, Dominic realizes that he has been given, not only a new lease on life, but extraordinary powers. Just as he is beginning to realize this, though, the Nazi's are beginning their attempt at taking control of Europe. They find out about this anomaly of a person, and come after Dominic, who slips out from under them to Switzerland.

After the war ends, Dominic meets up with a woman, Laura (played by Alexandra Maria Lara), who is a spot on re-incarnation of his lost love from decades before, Veronica. He begins a new love affair with Laura, who has some supernatural issues of her own. But will this relationship help them discover the mysteries they seek to solve, or destroy them both?

Youth Without Youth is a good film. It's not great, but it is good. I don't really feel that this represents a TRUE return to the kind of independent filmmaking that Coppola used to do. I mean, c'mon, let's be real, who else out there has the money and studio connections to fund a period piece with the kind of subject matter that Youth tackles? Would this film have been made in the 1960's, before The Godfather, The Conversation, or Apocalypse Now? I doubt it. This isn't The Rain People, or even THX-1138 (which Coppola served as producer for).

The plot was just interesting enough to keep me focused on it, though, if you asked me what the movie was about, I would probably tell you that I have no clue. There are more twists and turns in the meaning of this film than I could count. The acting was well done, and felt very natural, considering the somewhat strange story. But, isn't that what Coppola does best? Deal with actors?

The visual effects that he uses throughout the film, and the general visual style, I thought was interesting, though the cinematography itself was, at times, sorely lacking. Especially in the night scenes, where they pulled the student film trick of just shoving some blue gel on the lights to give it a "cold, night time" look. C'mon Francis, you've been out of film school for, what, forty years now? I know you can light better than that. The HD, also, looked kind of crappy sometimes. I think it would have served him much better, if he was trying to save money, to shoot Super 16. He would have kept all of the detail in the highlights, the night scenes would have looked better, and the over all look would have been much richer and deeper. Oh well, Soderbergh's Bubble suffered from the same problem.

I don't know, I liked Youth Without Youth, but, like I said before, I have no freakin' clue what its about. It's worth a watch, though, even if its just to enjoy an interesting story, and an interesting visual experience.

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