December 7, 2015

Testament


Youth (Paolo Sorrentino, 2015). It would be easy to say that Paolo Sorrentino doubles down on the Fellini-isms of The Great Beauty by moving from a variation on La Dolce Vita to a variation on 8 ½ and giving us not one but two ageing and self-absorbed men working through their issues about mortality, frailty, regret and beautiful young women, but where The Great Beauty seemed grandiose and self-pitying, Youth has a gentle humour, thanks largely to nuanced performances by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as a retired composer and a still-working film director taking their regular holiday in a Swiss spa that feels more like a luxury prison for famous people. Despite their blind spots, both men are regularly made available for criticism from women: there is a blistering monologue from Rachel Weisz as Caine’s daughter and a matching take-down from Jane Fonda as Keitel’s muse. Sorrentino is aiming for high modernism and big statements, and if you think that “pretentiousness” is always a sin, then stay away, but it’s hard not to be impressed by this much ambition and feeling.