Saturday, August 27, 2016

Youth (2015 film)

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Youth is the story of two old men who travel to a holiday spa in Switzerland as they reflect on their life as they also cope with aging and their longing to be youthful as they meet other people young and old. The film is a study on the ideas of youth, aging, and the struggle about what to do with the time that is left in one’s life. Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Youth is a ravishing yet evocative film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Set in Swiss Alps in a holiday spa, the film follows two men who are vacationing there as they cope with what is ahead as one of them is a famed composer trying to enjoy retirement while his friend is a filmmaker eager to make one more film and get a big-time actress to star in it. During their time, the two discuss things they can and can’t remember as well as the fact that they’re in their final years unsure of when death will arrive. Especially as the two also have children who are married to each other where something unexpected happens as they would also meet various characters in the course of their vacation. Paolo Sorrentino’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the ideas of youth, aging, life, and death but also the struggle for identity and meaning in the world. Even as these two men try to see if they still matter or have already contributed to the world and be forced to realize they have nothing to prove anymore.

The composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and the filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) both try to deal with their roles in life as the former copes with the task of performing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and her husband for the latter’s birthday while the latter is trying to make a film which he believes will be his greatest work. During the course of their stay, they befriend an actor named Jimmy (Paul Dano) who is doing research for a role while Fred is accompanied by his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who just went through a life-changing event making her stay at the spa much longer. Around the same time, Fred and Mick also encounter many eccentrics during their stay as they also comment on their past as well as their own faults as men where Fred admits to not being a good father to Lena as well as the fact that he wasn’t faithful to his wife where he copes with the fact that he couldn’t do his greatest piece without her.

Sorrentino’s direction is gorgeous for the way he presents this world of tranquility and peace that is like paradise. Shot largely on location in Flims, Switzerland at the Waldhaus Flims hotel with some shots at the Hotel Schatzalp in Davos and additional scenes set in Rome and Venice. Sorrentino creates some unique compositions to play into something that is idyllic in terms of where the elderly would go to relax as well as the fact that it’s a place for those in their prime as well as the young. Sorrentino’s usage of wide shots play into the look as well as some of the intimate moments that involve many of the residents at the spa where they’re shot in groups. The intimacy would also be used in the close-ups and medium shots as Sorrentino knows where to frame the actors or create something that is adds a lot to this air of tranquility and calm as these residents are given the chance to relax but also do some activities and listen to music.

The direction also has moments that are quite surreal as it play into this air of fantasy that some of the characters embark on. These sequences not only are dream-like but also play into some of the fear some of the characters endure but also moments that play into their sense of desire. Even as they are these odd moments that do make sense as well as showcase that feeling of existence where it would be overshadowed by the harshness of reality. Notably in a sequence in the third act which relates to the lives of Fred and Mick as the former is still carrying some form of grief and regret while the latter would face heartbreak of the worst kind. All of which these two men would be forced to carry for the remainder of their lives. Overall, Sorrentino creates an enchanting yet rapturous film about two old friends going on a holiday in the Swiss Alps coping with the remaining moments of their lives.

Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of its natural and colorful look for many of its daytime exteriors the usage of lights and moods for many of the scenes set at night. Editor Cristiano Travaglioli does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the offbeat moments while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Ludovica Ferrario, with set decorator Noel Godfrey and art directors Daniel Newton and Marion Schramm, does amazing work with the look of the rooms the residents live in as well as some of the design of the rooms and places they would go to. Costume designer Carlo Poggioli does excellent work with the different array of clothes of the many residents who are at the spa as well as the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with.

Hair/wig designer Aldo Signoretti and makeup designer Maurizio Silvi do fantastic work with the look of the actress that Mick wants to work with in her diva-esque persona as well as the look for Mick‘s own surreal moment. Visual effects supervisor Andrew Morley does terrific work with some of the visual effects as it play into the elements of surrealism that the characters would encounter or dream about. Sound editor Dario Calvari does superb work with the sound in playing up that sense of tranquility as well as the layer of sounds that Fred would hear in a surrealistic moment. The film’s music by David Lang is wonderful for its mixture of somber folk with elements of orchestral flourishes that play into the serenity of the locations as it would also feature additional contributions by Mark Kozelek who appears in the film as himself in creating some songs that are performed including Fred‘s famed composition that is sung in the final credits by the soprano singer Sumi Jo.

The casting by Shaheen Baig, Laura Rosenthal, and Anna Maria Sambucco is great as it feature some notable small roles from the British pop vocalist Paloma Faith as herself, Ed Stoppard as Lena‘s husband/Mick‘s son, Alex MacQueen as an emissary for Queen Elizabeth II, Ian Keir Attard as the emissary‘s assistant, Madalina Diana Ghena as Miss Universe, and Roly Serrano as an overweight and ailing version of the famed futbol icon Diego Maradona. In the roles of the screenwriters who work with Mick on his story, there’s Tom Lipinski, Chloe Pirrie, Alex Beckett, Nate Dern, and Mark Gessner as these different writers who provide Mick different ideas as well as try to come up with the ending as they‘re all fun to watch. Luna Mijovic is wonderful as a young masseuse that Fred befriends while Robert Seethaler is superb as a mountain climbing instruction that Lena takes interest in. In a small but crucial role as the diva-esque actress Brenda Morel, Jane Fonda is incredible as this longtime collaborator of Mick who makes this appearance as she represents some of the harshness of reality that Mick faces where she just owns that scene.

Paul Dano is excellent as Jimmy Tree as a young actor who befriends Fred and Mick where he shares their frustration with their work as he’s famously known for playing a robot where he hopes to find a role that could give him more. Rachel Weisz is amazing as Lena as Fred’s daughter who is also his assistant as she makes an unexpected return to the retreat where she copes with some of the bitter aspects of her relationship with her father. Harvey Keitel is phenomenal as Mick Boyle as a filmmaker eager to try and create one final film that would define his legacy while dealing with aspects of his life along with his friendship with Fred. Finally, there’s Michael Caine in a remarkable performance as Fred Ballinger as this music composer trying to retire as he is dealing with the demands of his former career in doing a concert for Queen Elizabeth II and write a memoir while dealing with his own faults as a man, a father, and as a husband where he also recalls things he can and can’t remember.

Youth is a spectacular film from Paolo Sorrentino that features brilliant performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda. Along with memorable performances from the rest of its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, strong themes on life and death, and superb music. It’s a film that explores many of the ideas about getting old as well as the idea of capturing some element of youth in an old age. In the end, Youth is a tremendous film from Paolo Sorrentino.

Paolo Sorrentino Films: (One Man Up) - (The Consequences of Love) - (The Family Friend) - (Il Divo) - (This Must Be the Place) - (The Great Beauty)

© thevoid99 2016

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