(Netflix Streaming, December 2016) I’m not normally a fan of elliptic artistic films driven less by plot than by contemplation of deep themes, but there is something about Youth that makes the experience entertaining, even gripping at times. Benefiting from the acting talents of Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as veteran creators struggling with the accumulated weight of their lives, Youth ponders issues of life and death, loops into vignettes that have little to do with the plot, veers into dream sequences, and discusses the pitfalls of the creative process and fame. It is alternatively grandiose, pretentious, intimate, funny, surreal, tragic and oblique. On paper, it sounds like a terrible mishmash of everything that the writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has thought about in making the film. And yet it works. I’m not sure why. The humour helps a lot, of course, and the way the film uses Madalina Diana Ghenea’s assets gleefully feels like exploitation. But there’s also a suspicion that Youth talks about life in a blunt way, using experiences that most of us will never have (being solicited for knighthood, being unable to secure a famed actress for our newest screenplay, even resting a few weeks in a five-star hotel in the Alps) to talk spectacularly about universal issues. The quality of the images, as incongruous as they can be, also contributes to a renewed interest in the film. No matter why, Youth does succeed at creating a memorable viewing experience. Not bad for a film that many, including myself, would have thrown dismissively in the “made for Cannes” bin.
(On VHS, December 1999) In retrospect, a rather promising debut by a guy named Quentin Tarantino. It’s also surprisingly theatrical, for such an obviously cinematographic film. Steadily -though blackly- amusing throughout, with great performances by Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi. A solid rental.
(On DVD, February 2009) This talky crime thriller has aged pretty well, all thing considered. The dialogue gets better, the lack of action isn’t as surprising, and the cut-ear scene seems positively restrained given the excesses that Tarantino and his imitators have committed ever since. The 15-year-anniversary DVD edition is filled with interesting material, from interviews with/about the fascinating personalities involved in the project, a look at the impact of the film on the indie circuit and other assorted tidbits.