Youth: you might as well resign yourself to your future
by Camillo De Marco
- CANNES 2015: Superb performances from Michael Caine and Harvey Keital in the film by the Oscar-winning director characterised by magnificent Fellinian framing
Friendship seems to be the central theme of Youth [+see also:
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
film profile], Paolo Sorrentino’s film in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, characterised by magnificent Fellinian framing that has become somewhat of a trademark of the director, shot by Luca Bigazzi and punctuated by the score of American composer David Lang. But behind the emotion that ties the two main protagonists of the film, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, is a perception of the meaning of life and the films of the Neapolitan director, in perfect continuity of his Oscar-winning film The Great Beauty [+see also:
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
Two friends, one a retired orchestra conductor (played by Michael Caine), the other a director (played by Harvey Keitel) wind up in the same luxury spa in Switzerland. Keitel is surrounded by a pool of young screenwriters with whom he’s working on the film that will be his legacy. The Great Maestro, on the other hand, is worried about his daughter (and assistant), played by Rachel Weisz, whose husband has just left her for a pop star (Paloma Faith who appears as herself) who is “better in bed”. Unfortunately the husband is the son of his director friend.
Like something out of a Greek classic, the incarnation of Youth is a certain Miss Universe (played by Madalina Ghenea) who arrives at the hotel, highlighting the deteriorating state of the bodies of the protagonists and the other guests of the hotel, which include Maradona and a Buddhist monk.
Youth is set in the Schatzalp Hotel in Davos, Switzerland, the same one referred to Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountain. Clearly a powerful literary connotation that is contradicted by one of the many quips of orchestra director Michael Caine: “Stravinsky once told me that intellectuals have no taste. And I’ve tried my whole life to not be an intellectual”. He says this to a young American film star, played by Paul Dano, who is frustrated because he is only known for his role as Mister Q. in a sci-fi film in which he always appears hidden behind body armour (like Michael Keaton in Birdman). He, on the other hand, reads Novalis and quotes him: gone is the desire to go far away, we want to return to our father’s home”.
Absorbed by his music his whole life, Caine’s character has not been a good father and cheated on his wife, an opera singer and the only one to have sung his most famous composition, "Simple Songs". Right then an envoy of the queen of England arrives in that enchanted place hidden in the Alps to tell him that she wants him to conduct a concert in London at all costs. The maestro refuses, as he can’t see a future to his life that has been so rich and believes to have reached the end of the road.
The blow dealt to director Harvey Keitel is instead the appearance of Jane Fonda, an actress who has been in a lot of his films and who should be the leading lady of his new film. But TV, here and now, could prevail over cinema.
Both friends, the musician and the filmmaker, take decisions that take them in radically different directions and answer the question that Sorrentino put to the general public when talking about his film on a television show a few weeks ago: how can you respect the future when the future is not a certain expectation?
For the director, there’s always a future and this is always a great opportunity for freedom. It remains to be seen what the price of this freedom is and the film offers us his perspective on this.
The film, which hits Italian theatres today, is a co-production between Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. It has been produced by Indigo Film in collaboration with Medusa Film for Italy; Barbary Films and Pathé for France; Number 9 Films for the United Kingdom and C-Films for Switzerland.
(Translated from Italian)