Saturday, February 16, 2008

Youth Without Youth (2007, Francis Ford Coppola)

Many critics out there piled onto Coppola's first completed film in a decade, and objectively speaking I suppose it's not very good. But it's MY kind of not very good, the kind of sorta-brilliant mess that fits squarely into that wonderful category called film maudit. The plot- something about a seventyish linguistics professor who gets struck by lightning, only to have thirty years taken off his life and intimidating mental powers- is both ridiculous and perfect for the film, propping up such wide-ranging ideas as Eastern mysticism, the origins of language, metaphysics, and the history of modern Europe between the rise of Nazi Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Youth Without Youth will never be mistaken for a masterpiece, but it's easily the most blissed out "failure" I've seen in ages. Just as importantly, it's the kind of wildly experimental, to-hell-with-the-consequences film that could only have been made by a filmmaker with nothing left to prove to anyone but himself (see also Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon). It's not a film from the guy who made Jack and The Rainmaker, but by the guy who spent five years going crazy to bring the world his vision of Vietnam, then risking his fortune on the studio-bound blue-collar anti-musical One From the Heart. I don't think it's an accident that Youth Without Youth is Coppola's most fascinating work since that notorious flop, mostly because it's almost certainly his most experimental since then. At a time when Coppola could be playing the Grand Old Filmmaker, living off his Godfather residuals and his winery profits, he's getting back out there and trying something new, and I for one hope it's not a one-off. Rating: 6 out of 10.