“Children, don’t know their parents ordeals. Sure, they know certain details, striking elements. And they know what they need to know to be on one side or the other. They don’t know that I trembled the first time I ever saw you on stage. All the orchestra behind my back were laughing at my falling in love. And my unexpected fragility. They don’t know that you sold of your mother’s jewellery in order to help me with my second piece. When everyone else was turning me down calling me presumptuous inelegant musician. They don’t know that you too, and you were right that you thought I was a presumptuous, inelegant musician at that time. And you cried so hard. Not because you sold you mother’s jewellery but because you sold your mother. They don’t know that we were together. You and I. Despite all the exhaustion, and the pain, and hardship. Melanie. They must never know that you and I despite everything liked to think of ourselves as a simple song.”
‘Youth’, directed by Paolo Sorrentino in 2015, is an Italian comedy drama featuring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as Fred and Mick, an aging pair of friends who are staying at an exclusive spa resort in Switzerland. Fred is a composer who is determined to retire after his wife has been committed to a care home and Mick is a Hollywood scriptwriter struggling with his latest movie. During their stay they muse of the nature of aging, on losing their memories and they have encounters with a series of eccentric fellow guests: Diego Maradona, an actor who suddenly takes to dressing like Hitler, Miss Universe and a levitating monk. Sorrentino is clearly a fan of Fellini: the film contains dream sequences, sexual fantasies, an elliptical narrative and a series characters who are as charismatic and ambiguous as those in films such as ‘La Dolce Vita’, ‘8 ½’ and ‘City of Women‘. As with Fellini, Sorrentino’s approach is a visual one: every scene is meticulously framed and full of interest. Also, as with ‘8 ½’, there is a focus on memory and what happens when brilliant people get older. The film is a series of vignettes, some successful and brilliantly conceived, others that feel a little like music videos, for me, a flaw that is enhanced by the in-joke presence of Paloma Faith as the love interest of one character. Having said that, the cameos by ‘real’ people is also a key part of the humour of the film and adds to the rich, fantastical and, at times, oneiric quality of Sorrentino’s direction. The film is packed with arresting imagery, a fantastic use of the Swiss landscape and has a central theme that is both profound and moving.
Would I recommend it? Yes – if you like Fellini then it’s worth watching. A double-bill with ‘8 ½’ would work very well.