I was talking to my friend Dayton today. He spends a lot of time reading religious books and watching sports. I have a lot of friends like him only they don't read religious books. He rarely if ever goes to movies and is usually disappointed.
I've now seen REVENANT, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, and MARTIAN. They're all pretty standard Hollywood fare. I can go without seeing another space movie that ends with somebody hanging by ropes in space. Movies where the characters say fuck a lot and die a miserable death because they deserve it aren't all that rare either any more.
When I was a kid watching Westerns on TV there were a lot of shows about guys in the wilderness getting attacked by bears. It was only later they had them put on make-up to look dirty and had rotten teeth. That wasn't the way a hero was supposed to look, but I got used to it. In a few years, they'll be confused with all the other movies like them and won't be remembered.
YOUTH is about a classical composer and director who's getting old and ready to retire. He's pretty much done it all. He's staying in a fancy spa in Switzerland where the rich and famous pamper themselves. The role is played by Michael Caine, who does a lot by doing very little. I can't remember the last movie I saw about a maestro. How about you Dayton? I like movies best that make you think and are full of surprises, don't you?
His best friend is played by Harvey Keitel, who's a movie director putting together a script with a bunch of young movie freaks. I have to admit here a certain prejudice. I've always liked Harvey. He can be cruel and he can be surprisingly jolly and we used to share a babysitter when he was married to Lorraine Brocco and lived in Manhattan. (I thought I'd put in a little gossip, what they hell, who says a movie review can't be fun.)
The two talk a lot walking in the woods. It's old man talk. In fact, I think it's very much how old men talk who talk about getting old and are honest, sophisticated, and love one another--from a script standpoint, it's like entering a room in a big house that's usually closed to the public. Music is always playing in the background, beautiful music.
Rachel Wiesz plays Michael Cain's daughter. I think she might have been pregnant while filming because the shots of her are such odd angles. She can do a lot with her lips. She falls in love with a mountaineer during the movie--an odd man with a misshapen body. I found it quite humorous. Did I mention Jane Fonda has a cameo? She's a totally believable actress/diva/bitch--her best role in years. One even wonders if it was an act. It's the kind of scene you can watch again and appreciate more knowing it's coming.
I doubt if Caine or Harvey will win any big awards, but that's usually the case. The real credit goes to the Italian writer/director Paulo Sorrentino. At age 45 there's no doubt he's mastered a complex craft and entered the pantheon of great European directors--certainly with this movie. His most obvious inspiration is Louis Bunuel, though the NEW YORKER credits Fellini's EIGHT AND A HALF, so you don't have to take my word for it. Other reviews were so-so, but one wonders if there isn't an age differential at work.
YOUTH has a lot of surreal, "magical realism" scenes--all perfectly set-up and timed in addition to "stop time" scenes reminding us we live in a time and place that won't come again. The scene of Michael and Harvey with Madelina Ghnea, Miss. Universe, who plays Miss. Universe is worth the price of the ticket. I can't imagine watching it and not laughing. I hope it isn't Michael Caine's last movie, but if it is he's found a fine encore.
If you only see one movie in 2016, that is if you like movies that are about how we live and give the feeling getting old still has possibilities, or if you are a person who appreciates the craft of writing, acting, directing and film making in general this is a movie you won't forget.