Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DVD Review: Youth Without Youth

Francis Ford Coppola took on quite an endeavor in making "Youth Without Youth". The film was financed by Coppola's successful vineyard and the original cut was a daunting three hours long. The poor editor Walter Murch had to sift through over 170 hours of footage just to get a releasable motion picture. Francis Ford Coppola is quite notorious for cinematic narcissism and it is well rumored that Robert Evans had to beg, plead and threaten a young Coppola to shorten the already epic "Godfather". So, it really is no mystery that "Youth Without Youth" being a personal piece of Coppola's resume of motion pictures dares not to defy his headstrong approach to filmmaking. "Youth Without Youth" is visually stunning, though. Adapted from the novella by Mircea Eliade, Coppola gathers a rather renowned cast to bring this story to celluloid: Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Little Odessa), Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall), Bruno Ganz(Wings of Desire) and an uncredited cameo by Matt Damon.

Tim Roth plays Dominic Matel who at the very beginning of the film is an elderly professor of linguistics. When he is miraculously struck by lightning he begins to age backwards. The audience sees the film in forward yet reverse (chronological) order (if that makes any sense). As Dominic's predicament gains the attention of the growing Nazi party obvious conflict arises. Nazi scientists want him for experimental reasons and Dominic wants nothing more than to reunite with his long lost love, Laura. Dominic is also interested (to a fault) in the origins of language. The ultimate conflict is the fight to chose between what he wants and what he needs. "Youth Without Youth" is not meant for leisurely viewing. The complexities of this film don't hide in the plot necessarily but in the mere fact as to why someone would make such a motion picture. Many critics have called "Youth Without Youth" a 'personal film' which obviously falls on Coppola's lap. There is no doubt in my mind that this was indeed a 'passion project' but it is quite obvious why YWY got a limited cinematic release. Roth is wonderful despite his cryptic and almost philosophical lines of dialogue while Maria Lara's performance, despite her stunning looks is a mere after thought. If "Youth Without Youth" happens to be somewhere on your Netflix queue, I advise you to remove it immediately.

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