Sunday, 22 May 2016

Youth



Paolo Sorrentino is one of the most enigmatic filmmakers in Europe yet alone Italy incorporating a mixture of tales of an ageing man in Central Europe embraced by the performances of Toni Servillo in The Consequences of Love and The Great Beauty. 

Sorrentino has attempted English language film before with the Sean Penn vehicle This Must be the Place, a film using the oeuvre of David Byrne's Talking Heads back catalogue as a springboard. He returned for the aforementioned Great Beauty before this latest venture, Youth starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel.

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They both play 80 year old veterans of entertainment who meet for their annual two week holiday at an elite spa in Switzerland. Caine plays a composer who could have been as great as Stravinsky yet is famous for a more popular composition he wrote for his singer wife from whom he is now estranged. Keitel is a film director who with two co-writers and an acting duo is attempting to create one last masterpiece to make with his ageing muse, played by a fleeting and glowing Jane Fonda.
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Whilst we might be witnessing the twilight of these two men, they are surrounded by youth in terms of the young people who serve them or give them massages, Caine's daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who is going through a separation from her husband who has fallen for a younger woman. 
Paul Dano, an exciting young American actor portrays a young accomplished actor who is most famous for playing a robot in a science fiction franchise picture; he would prefer to take risks with roles and his career, which leads to him taking on a future role as a famous world leader to show his range and craft, which shows an over reach on his behalf.
This pervading sense of youth and innocence is in stark contrast to the ageing men and the manifestation of end of existing exhibited by the inclusion of a man resembling Diego Maradona. While Caine and Keitel's character can continue to exist in the popular culture through composing or directing which has no age restrictions only a restriction by an individual's ambition, whereas Maradona has a limited shelf life due to physical demands. Even the newly crowned Miss Universe is restricted, she may want to get into acting as she states but she unfortunately will only ever be Miss Universe.
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Keitel is keen to point out that all you have are memories and the craving for creativity and embracing your strengths, not yo be pigeon holed by one piece of work. 
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Sorrentino has moulded a film that is about celebrity - a subject that fascinates him - ageing, loss and friendship. Caine and Keitel are two titans of screen acting and cleverly have never suffered by such pigeon holing in their CV, and their depiction of friendship is portrayed effectively with genuine affection and emotion. A wonderfully odd and eccentric film with laugh out loud moments it can be included in the great pantheon of hotel movies (Lost in Translation remains the top), a hotel allowing fleeting friendships and moments. The film is stylistically shot with a great sense of space and environment, at times you sense the people could even be there against their will in a dystopic world, yet Sorrentino has a sure hand over proceedings helped by an ensemble cast of a refined quality and an eclectic soundtrack to boot.

Youth is available on Digital download from 23rd May and on DVD and Blu-ray from 30th May from Studiocanal.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Victoria








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Directed by Sebastian Schipper, Victoria is a gripping look at a night in the life of a young Spanish girl who lives in Berlin, and gets sucked into doing something she would not ordinarily do.

Shot in real time, the film is supposedly shot in one take as the camera follows Victoria (Laia Costa) as she leaves a nightclub at 4am in the morning to go home before work. There she encounters four guys and there is an initial flirtation with Sonne (Sebastian Lau).  He and his friends are German, and Victoria cannot talk German fluently, so in broken English they communicate about life, drink and having fun.

Halfway through the film though, there is a shift in tone as the narrative takes an abrupt turn involving a favour ex-convict Boxer (Franz Rogowski) owes someone from when he served jail time.

The hand-held camera that follows Victoria and the real-time situation creates a fear of impending doom as we follow this vulnerable girl making hasty decisions revealing her naivety because she is alone in a big city abroad.  Until the abrupt turn in the narrative, this viewer feared that Victoria was going to be a victim of sexual assault, but the shift shows how immediate a world we live in.



This is a film for the millenial era - a generation of knee-jerks and instant reaction to feel like you belong to this world.  It is a film of the here and now, and how every decision can change the rest of your life, but also how fleeting moments and meetings with people can have a further longer lasting influence.

Shot with real panache by Director of Photography Sturla Brandth Grovlen (his is the first name credited at the end of the film - and rightly so), whose camera goes where the characters go into lifts and cars; there is never a let down in the tension as the narrative unfolds.

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It is a credit that while the film could be marketed as a one-take gimmick film, the cast elevate the film to something more than its selling point and a film that stays with you due to the intense performances and conviction of a director to follow through on the potential of an idea to reach the ceiling and burst through it.

Victoria is out on DVD (£13.99rrp) and Blu-ray (£15.99rrp) from Curzon/Artificial Eye on 23rd May
www.curzon.com