A country for old men
Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. His new film, Youth, features a similarly ravishing visual style, but it doesn’t quite match the gravitas of its illustrious predecessor.
All the same, it does have much more than visual splendor going for it. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play two old friends, a semi-retired composer and a filmmaker (whose career is in decline), who are taking some time off at a spa in Switzerland. Their wry retrospective conversations about love and art and aging are central to the film’s low-key seriousness and to its suave brand of comedy as well.
Offhand comic-dramatic entanglements come via encounters with the Caine character’s highly strung daughter (Rachel Weisz) and a laid-back movie actor (Paul Dano) who keeps a reverent eye on the two old-timers during his own downtime at the spa. Jane Fonda has a spectacular cameo as an aging star whose sudden appearance at the spa is good news for the movie but bad news for the Keitel character.
Unlike The Great Beauty and Sorrentino’s other Italian-language stand-outs (Il Divo, The Consequences of Love), Youth is in English. That’s not a drawback here, but it might mean that foreign-film fans will need an extra nudge before they notice that this film also seems to be riffing, playfully and skillfully, on Fellini’s 8½.