Saturday, September 03, 2005

review - The Best of Youth

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Winner of the Jury prize at the Cannes film festival and recipient of glowing reviews everywhere, I decided to take in this Italian family saga over much more flashy fare like Transporter 2, The Cave, A Sound of Thunder, The Dukes of Hazzard, etc. Was I happy with my choice? Absolutely.

The Best of Youth, Part 1, is a three hour epic, based on the lives of Matteo and Nicola Carati, two brothers who we first meet in 1966. Matteo works in an aylum and becomes smitten with a beautiful young patient, Giorgia. He shows his medical student brother photos that he took of her and they discover scars, most likely from excessive eletro-shock therapy. Concerned for her well being, they sneak her out and go on a road trip to find her father. This alone could make for an interesting film, but in the scope of his epic, it's only a small part.

Matteo and Nicola were supposed to meet up with some friends to travel to Norway. After freeing Giorgia from the asylum, they become side tracked and go their separate ways...Nicola the free sprit, to Norway, Matteo, the brooding introspect, back to Rome.

When we first see Matteo, he looks like David Cassidy from the Partridge Family, except with shorter hair. In most of the scenes, he seems to be dark and mysterious, with a wicked temper. It's as if something is constantly eating away at him and he's unable to find peace. He's attracted to the military and the becomes a Riot Policeman, because he loves rules and order. Even as a policeman, his constantly simmering anger gets him in hot water. Nicola, in contrast, is more easy going, and leans more to the left. His life isn't care-free, though. He becomes married to an activist university student, who seems to dislike being a mother and is clearly preoccupied, behind her husband's back, with intense leftist politics and activities...

We see big events that shape the history of Italy from the 60s onwards and how our two main characters are involved, affected and react differently. After the brothers went their separate ways, we see the floods of Flroence from the 60's, students rioting and fighting police, the terrorist group the Red Brigade, etc. This is only Part 1. Part 2 shows at Cinemateque later in September.

Director Marco Tullio Giordana has scored a home run. Had this been a US film, this would easily be talked about as Oscar material. You are constantly watching to see what will happen next and unlike most mainstream Hollywood fare, you get a sense that you are watching a story unfold and want to see where it is going. Most Hollywood films can be figured out within the first hour, if not eariier.

There are no stars who I recognize, but if anything, that's one less distraction. The acting is first rate. The audience appeared to be mostly older folks, possibly of Italian heritage. They laughed a lot at the unique Italian mannerisms and dialogue but this film definitely has a universal appeal. They also applauded at the end.

This is a very watchable film and I look forward to seeing Part 2, and then buying the whole thing on DVD someday. Easily in my top ten films of the year.

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