Reel Shorts | Youth Without Youth

10 01 2008

Iconic director Francis Ford Coppola’s latest film, “Youth Without Youth,” finds the veteran auteur trying to create something extraordinary. While he falls short from his ultimate goal, he still creates a compelling story that may not be great but is still very good.

Based on a novella by Romania religious historian, Mircea Eliade, “Youth” follows a heartbroken professor, Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) at the twilight of his life who mysteriously regains his youth after being struck by lightning in 1938 Romania. His miraculous recovery and transformation draw the attention of the Nazi Party, who would like to “experiment” on him.

Matei, who have also been trying to complete his life’s work exploring the origins of man, becomes a fugitive as he tries to make sense of his “special opportunity.” Just when it seems that his story is winding down that Matei discovers love again. This relationship helps the seasoned professor further his life’s work, but unfortunately for him, it comes with a terrible price.

Roth is a revelation and is perfectly cast as Matei. He carries the film appearing in nearly every scene. His expressive eyes and elderly mannerisms are seamlessly intertwined in this small personal story of a man who must live in the shadow while uncovering some of life’s greatest secrets.

Coppola, who financed this film from money made from his vineyards and hotel businesses, crafts a story that is slowly paced and sometimes confusing with multiple locations. Having said that, the film is captivating cinema finding Coppola dealing with time, consciousness, the basis of reality and shooting many scenes in a dream-like sequences. There are times the film almost feels like the director is telling his own story with Matei’s journey mirroring Coppola’s examining a man who had early success only to spend his later years searching for life’s greater meaning.

Ultimately for those who invest time and energy into this complex story, the film’s payoff is sufficient. “Youth Without Youth” is not one of Coppola’s classic films, but it is better than his his most recent efforts. This film is not Coppola’s fountain of youth, but it does give the fable director back some sheen.

Grade: B+

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