Thursday night, September 24, The 2015 Milwaukee Film Festival kicked off with Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth.” This drama focuses on two elderly men spending their vacation at a luxurious hotel at the foot of the Alps. The film met with great reception, as audience members responded in laughs and tears at this exclusive screening.
“Youth” stars Michael Caine as retired composer Fred Ballinger and Harvey Keitel as director Mick Boyle. The two have great chemistry as they touch audiences through both perfectly-timed comedy and endearing, heart-wrenching moments. Rachel Weisz plays Caine’s daughter/assistant Lena, giving an outstanding performance that literally took the audience’s breath away during emotional confrontations with her father.
The film is better categorized as a dramedy than a drama because there are so many moments that are very tongue-in-cheek and witty with a kind of subtle humor that is a rare and special find in film. Caine’s comedic timing, in particular, is delightful to watch. However, there are certain sad moments that the audience took as comedy either because of how dry the humor is throughout, or because it was simply too dense for all viewers to grasp.
Many jokes within “Youth” are left in dead air for the audience to take as they may, and silence plays a major role in the film. More impressively, however, is the outstanding soundtrack and what both diegetic and non-diegetic music do for the storyline. Music is an almost ever-present entity that does wonders for letting the audience into the minds of the characters in a film that is otherwise very observatory in nature.
Editing and matching the music to the right scene is extremely important and the filmmakers definitely hit the mark there in “Youth.” One weakness in the editing is how often and far it jumps from characters and locations. It can feel a bit scattered and not unified at times. There is also a great deal of buildup in certain scenes that makes several moments feel like the end of the film, only for a comparatively mundane scene to follow.
Another element of “Youth” that is truly unique to anything you’re likely to see in film is the cinematography. The shots and cuts between them are very composed and deliberate in a way that makes it feel like you’re watching moving art. The incredible scenery in the Alps, structure of the shots, timing and selection of the editors, combined with the music, work together to immerse the audience into the minds of the characters. The cinematography and music, in particular, are crucial to telling the story and capturing the essence of the characters, what they’re feeling, and what they have in common.
“Youth” opens in theaters on December 4. For more information on “Youth”, visit its Milwaukee Film page.