aven’t we been over this? The Great Beauty was Paolo Sorrentino’s rumination on the loss of youthful vigour and talent. Youth, Sorrentino returning to English language after the wobbly This Must Be The Place, feels like a compendium of scenes and ideas and lines cut from that 2014 Oscar winner.
ichael Caine is in the Toni Servillo role – a famous maestro who has retreated to a luxurious spa hotel in the Swiss mountains to relax his bones and reflect on his life, refusing the advances of the Queen’s emissary (Alex Macqueen) to come out of retirement for a one off concert. His director friend Harvey Keitel is among the guests, desperately seeking a climax to a troubling script (entitled Life’s Last Day) which may be his masterpiece, and both try to make sense of their children’s separation – Keitel’s son (Ed Stoppard) and Caine’s daughter and assistant (Weisz) have just split up. Nosing about is Paul Dano’s actor, observing the characters that flit about the grounds in research of an upcoming role.
outh exists in snatches, short one minute scenes, with Sorrentino building to mini crescendos before ebbing away and building again to an even bigger one; perhaps the director is after a symphony more than a film narrative and while it’s at times comforting, nice to look at (the majestic scenery) and listen to (Mark Kozelek turns up to serenade the guests one evening), Youth has no flow. It’s very stop/start with the scenes failing to knit together; a music video sequence involving Paloma Faith is unfortunately a typically baffling inclusion lobbed in at random. The dialogue can sound unnatural too. Oddly Youth finds Sorrentino signposting later developments rather obviously: Will the mediating Tibetan monk achieve levitation? Will someone appreciate Dano’s more serious roles? Will the couple who never talk to each other finally speak?
ut there are nuggets to be found. Caine and Keitel’s grumblings about growing old are funny; the emotionally distant Caine’s reveal to the Queen’s emissary why he would never let another soprano sing his pieces is touching; Dano, a serious actor, is snippy with fans who only recognise his famous role where he played a robot; Keitel and wonderfully spikey Jane Fonda, for whom his screenplay is for, finally drop the polite charade and confess exactly what they think of each other. And it’s as pretty as a picture.
here’s also a hint that Sorrentino’s next outing will be an altogether happier and upbeat affair… if Dano’s speech is anything to go by.