Youth, film review: ‘Ambling and reflective’

10:58 01 February 2016

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in Youth. Picture: Gianni Fiorito

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in Youth. Picture: Gianni Fiorito

GIANNI FIORITO

Michael Caine is majestic in this somewhat half-formed ponderance on old age, writes Michael Joyce.

Director: Paolo Sorrentino 
Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Alex Macqueen and Jane Fonda 
Film Length: 118 mins

Youth, a film about ageing, is all about its incongruities. It has an international cast that seem deliberately mismatched. Caine and Keitel play best friends. There is an extraordinarily obese man who looks like Maradona, but isn’t; and an ageing actress who doesn’t resemble Jane Fonda, but is. Sorrentino dumps all these elements in a luxury Swiss spa hotel and has them circle around the issues of life, love and forgetting. It is rambling and indulgent: a Fellini film but without a Fellini cast.

Sorrentino’s follow up to The Great Beauty has a great musical score, humour, and strong performances, especially from Caine – 82-years-old and as majestic and commanding a screen presence as ever. It also has all the hallmarks of the one made after the masterpiece; the novel that comes after the Booker win or the film made after the Oscar. It’s the one where the genius gets to relax and treat himself; the one where he doesn’t see why he should follow the conventions of the lesser talents. Caine and Keitel are two artists – composer and film director respectively – who have run out of steam, and the film has a similar lethargy. It is beautifully shot and visually inventive but at a walking pace. The characters sit around and talk about life and there is the sense that whatever half-formed idea comes out is relevant and weighty.

Sorrentino is only in his mid 40s – it’s a little early to get this ambling and reflective. In his late 30s he was making Il Divo, a film with such unrelenting energy and vigorous visual control it was a little airless. Youth is all bracing fresh country air and space to breathe.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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