Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Madalina Diana Ghenea, Jane Fonda, Alex Macqueen, Chloe Pirrie, Alex Beckett, Nate Dern, Mark Gessner, Mark Kozelek, Ed Stoppard, Paloma Faith, Sonia Gessner
Written by: Paolo Sorrentino
Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
MPAA Rating: R for graphic nudity, some sexuality, and language
Running Time: 118
Date: 12/04/2015

Youth (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Clock of Ages

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As with his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino brings a gorgeous, dreamy visual style to this English-language effort, even if it's not quite as profound as wants to be. Sorrentino continues to channel Italian cinema history, copying Fellini again, and Antonioni as well (the movie is also dedicated to the late Francesco Rosi). But while those directors used their own style to tackle their own themes, Sorrentino feels lost in their shadows, indirectly using tools from their kits, stuck between art and commercialism.

Retired composer/conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is vacationing at a resort in the Swiss alps. His daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) is there, recovering from a breakup, as well as his best friend, filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) who is working with a team of screenwriters on what he hopes will be his masterpiece. An emissary from the queen arrives with an invitation for Ballinger to perform his most popular work, the "Simple Songs," at the palace. He initially refuses, but conversations with the folks at the resort, including actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), cause him to ponder the elusive nature of memory, love, and art.

On the plus side however, with a quiet, reflective atmosphere, the filmmaker does allow plenty of room for the actors to explore their emotions. (Many of them give their best performances in a long while.) And, with the help of cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, as well as the Swiss locations, Youth conjures up many beautiful, thought-provoking images without resorting to flashy movements; it's a movie of stillness, stirred only by the presence of Madalina Diana Ghenea as "Miss Universe."

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