Youth Without Youth

by / April 27, 2009

A new Coppola! And not a Sophia, but a bona fide Francis Ford! Wow, the first in a decade! His last film was The Rainmaker however, it is the film made before that which always troubled me—Jack, that awful picture starring Robin Williams. So imagine my surprise to discover Youth Without Youth is Jack’s closest cousin! Wait, I am being sensationalist here, the only similarity is in their premises; Jack is about a boy who grows old too fast while Youth Without Youth is about an old man who becomes young again. I just wanted to remind everybody of the fact that the man who gave us The Godfather also made a Robin Williams film worse than Bicentennial Man.

Anyway, Youth Without Youth is the confusing story of linguist Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) who, after failing to complete his life’s work, decides to commit suicide. Before he can he is struck by lighting which should have granted his death wish, but in turn makes him young. To further complicate things, after this the Nazis want him as a specimen and send a beautiful secret agent, whom he of course falls in love with. I won’t say what happens next, but let’s just say it’s even more ridiculous than what I have just described.

Shot almost completely digitally, Youth Without Youth looks great, however Mihai Malaimare’s photography is derivative of another Coppola collaborator—Vittorio Storaro. From early shots its resemblance to The Conformist is evident in virtually all aspects of mise-en-scene. Superstar editor Walter Murch delivers another beautifully cut film that actually manages to make contrived scenes where Matei exchanges dialogue with his doppelgänger work. Performance wise Roth struggles with a lacklustre character drowning in the convoluted plot.

So don’t start playing Ride of The Valkyries, this isn’t Francis Fords surge back into battle. I’m not even sure he wants it to be. With this film and his upcoming Tetro, he hasn’t had budgets exceeding $20 million. This isn’t just because Zoetrope went bust once before, but rather because Coppola is taking smaller budgets to make the films he wants to. In recent interviews he has made this clear and it’s hardly surprising. In no way can I believe Coppola willingly made Jack, or even The Rainmaker for that matter. I’m glad he’s back making pictures that are important to him—I just hope Tetro is better.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
With Tim Roth, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara

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