More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)
30 January (link substituted, 19 May)
The list of key-words below had probably been noted before, in white capitals, the title Youth appeared [above a division of the screen, as if in a colour-field painting, comprising the colour of a low partition-wall, its rail, and the wall behind it], and then the sky, above an Alpine view (which, one estimates, was 10-15 minutes in – it was not quick, because, by the time that it arrived, one had forgotten not having seen the film’s name [the BBFC (@BBFC) certificate does not count]) :
* Light = use of, and our awareness of, light [Luca Bigazzi is Sorrentino's cinematographer again²]
* Fluidity, of the image, and how it changed with the camera’s movement
* Composition, i.e. of shots, and the Viewpoint from which they were taken
* Transition between shots
* Tactility, in that (as did its predecessor²) it has and conveys a keen sense of our physicality / our corporeality
All of these impressed one with the film’s quality, and the care of its making : as one expected², and hoped would be so.
Is Michael Caine really far superior in Youth (2015) to how he was in Interstellar (2014) [or Little Voice (1998)] ? pic.twitter.com/ZJRpAxUGyj— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) February 5, 2016
Points of cinematic comparison are, sadly, not hard to find, even at this time of the year, i.e. despite what worth it might be reasonable to assume that nominations for awards recognize, whereas films Based on a true story seem sufficient unto themselves (as with Tim Burton's Big Eyes (2014), at this time last year), without speech, for example, seemingly needing to sound as if anyone might have uttered it :
After hearing dialogue from @TrumboMovieUK's trailer [one averts one's eyes, just in case], it isn't greatly going to do more than irritate.— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) January 30, 2016
* This paragraph contains Spoilers (if intending to watch Trumbo) *
The choice of film is not irrelevant (even if the relevance was in someone else’s mind, in devising the trailers to show) in that Youth (La giovinezza) (2015) has Harvey Keitel as a writer / director (Mick Boyle), whereas Trumbo (2015) purports to save us the trouble of finding out why Dalton Trumbo was not credited, say, with the screenplay for Roman Holiday (1953) (and it was only forty years later that the Academy Award for ‘Best Writing, Motion Picture Story’ was credited to him). (Whereas, in 2 hrs 4 mins, one could watch Roman Holiday instead, and, on IMDb (@IMDb), there is what seems a very full biography of Trumbo (it is staggeringly longer than usual), just for the reading.)
But #Youth isn't underwhelming, @TeddyCutler - it fizzes and sizzles with its inventive homages (8½, Grand Budapest) https://t.co/70ruV348Cm— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) January 30, 2016
Youth most clearly does reference both 8½ (1963) and, more fleetingly, both The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), and even Metropolis (1927). However, director Paolo Sorrentino is not being derivative of Federico Fellini, Wes Anderson, Fritz Lang ; rather, he is showing us his reverence for these films and, albeit with playfulness, asking us to share his appreciation. (Likewise, Stardust Memories (1980) - which Sorrentino clearly values - is a massive tribute to European cinema, hardly least also to 8½ [Fellini is an acknowledged inspiration to Woody Allen and his work], but it sees those films / that film through another director’s eyes (but as if through the eyes of his character, Sandy Bates). (It is sad [dare one say, simplistic on their part ?] that contemporary critics and audiences, feeling insulted, insultingly mistook Sandy Bates, and his opinions, for Allen and his.))
When it comes to The Lobster (2015), a film that achieves far less, but with far more effort, the link between Lanthimos’ film and Sorrentino’s is, as well as in the type of location (and in a first film scripted in English), in the person of Rachel Weisz : here, Fred Ballinger’s (Michael Caine’s) daughter Lena ; there as a form of emotional outlaw, without a name (but, significantly, narrating the story, one has to feel - please see the next paragraph). (If the films were, more than superficially, so irremediably different, one might have asked in whose film Weisz seemed ‘a spy in the camp’ (for, according to Wikipedia® (citing dates in Cineuropa and ScreenDaily, respectively), principal photography for The Lobster ‘began on 24 March 2014, and concluded on 9 May 2014’, and that for Youth started in Flims, Switzerland, in May [also according to Wikipedia®].)
The true point of connection is in Rachel Weisz’s very distinctive voice and the rhythms of her way of speaking. Here, she makes a striking speech as to whose status, immediately afterwards, we are (or should be) uncertain : for, literally from the first visuals to the last (and not just when it is patent), this feeling of uncertainty is built into the fabric of the film - as with Allen in Stardust Memories (or, equally, with Deconstructing Harry (1997)), or Fellini, whom Allen had used as his model. It is suggested that, in The Lobster (as has been argued at the conclusion of the review on these pages), we ought to have been watching throughout with a view to what this use of the device of a voice-over actually signifies (and not just take it for granted). (Are we meant, say, to take that element simply as read in American Beauty (1999), or even Sunset Blvd. (1950)?)
But the connection with where Sorrentino filmed proves to be a quite different one, in that Wikipedia® tells us that the primary location was the nineteenth-century five-star Grand Hotel Waldhaus Flims, but that filming also took place in Davos (in Switzlerland), particularly at The Hotel Schatzalp - where the novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) is set. That novel is is highly relevant to a setting in a spa (although its characters are more unwell, e.g. tuberculosis), but it is also a link with another novel by Thomas Mann, which one thereby sees confirmed as having been in Sorrentino’s mind, Dr Faustus (published in 1947, more than twenty years later). This later work is more allusive and, even though it is considerably shorter, its subject-matter makes it feel more dense : albeit an extreme one, Mann’s composer-character Adrian Leverkühn seems a perfect reference for a character-type such as Fred Ballinger’s (Michael Caine’s)³.
Some comments about Youth (2015) are creeping into 'Why would one *want* to wait for a film's end-credits ?'... :https://t.co/m5A07lELgL— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) January 31, 2016
Having had a prominent piece at the opening of La grande bellezza, David Lang scored Youth, and, amongst his work (particularly ‘just’), we hear such musical touch-stones as, three or four times over, excerpts from Triste et lent (number 6 from Book I of Debussy’s Préludes [the occurrences are considered further in another posting), and the Berceuse from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, with their clear associations for those who know them. With other allusions, there is a set-piece, which is reminiscent of the ‘friendly’ and wholly ‘well-meant’ honesty of Arsinoé towards Célimène (and then vice versa) in Molière’s Le misanthrope (which has been described as a ‘a fencing-match’ (of sorts)), between Keitel and Jane Fonda⁴.
Of course, we know, on the surface, that there is a film within a film, and that, as with the scene with flamingos on the balcony (for example) in La grande bellezza, there is another dimension to reality. (In fact, there is more than one film, but Paul Dano, as Jimmy Tree (developing his film-character), amounts to a sub-plot (if a major one).) In the development of the main film (the relevance of whose title cannot be overlooked, but which is not stated within this review), with Harvey Keitel (Mick Boyle) and his collaborators, Boyle demonstrates, as an analogy for Time, how a telescope (depending on at which end one looks into it) can make objects look nearer or farther :
Does that second film not seem to zoom in on the first (in which Caine and Keitel exist, and the second film is a project), right in the closing shot⁵... ? [That question is now considered, at length, in another posting.]
¹ When trying to recall the name of Harvey Keitel's character (a film-maker), one was not totally erroneously led to the name Frank Boyle...
² Having seen La grande bellezza (2013) three times [which it seems better to translate not as The Great Beauty, but as Immense Beauty] :
Youth (2015), just watched, is at least the equal of the excellent predecessor, #LaGrandeBellezza, @BFI ! https://t.co/TK57CFUFRv— THE AGENT APSLEY (@THEAGENTAPSLEY) January 30, 2016
In Youth, we not only hear the line You understand everything with your hands, don’t you ? (spoken to a young masseuse [with whom we recurrently spend moments off duty]), but it also (as Albrecht Dürer or Godfrey Reggio may do in Visitors (2013), or some of the films that Youth references) reminds of the very tangible nature of our mortal form.
³ As does that of Daniel Auteuil’s Stéphane in Un Cœur en Hiver (1992).
⁴ * Contains spoilers ? * Finally appearing as Brenda Morel, after audaciously referred to for much screen-time – not unlike the very slow appearance of the film’s title, perhaps willing us to forget that Fonda is still absent ? (As Barry Norman once said about Henry Fonda, in The Hollywood Greats : Fonda made the heart grow absent.)
⁵ * Contains spoilers * After we have been put much in mind of the opening of Stardust Memories, with (again referencing 8½) what we initially see turning out to be in a screening-room - where the end of Sandy Bates’ film, much to his dismay, has been outrageously changed by the studio without his knowledge so that the characters all end up in Jazz Heaven...
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)