Youth Without Youth (2007) Poster

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Searching the eternal youth in Romania
ekisest4 November 2007
It's been a while since I have written anything for IMDb. "Youth Without Youth" is not only a very personal approach to a barely known novella by Mircea Eliade, but also a homage to Romanian culture and civilization. I felt really good watching a legendary filmmaker like Coppola before the special screening (in Bucharest), walking on the stage and thanking sincerely to the Romanian cast and crew, and in the end, thanking all of us "for Mircea Eliade". I read Eliade's novella some months ago, and I found it difficult and "anti-cinematic", unlike "La tiganci" or other texts of his. "Youth" is, as I saw it, a meditation on time and the relation between human memory and identity. Eliade has been concerned with the theme of "la vita est sueno" (life is dream) for a long time, and his fiction shows it. Coppola also has been preoccupied with time, dreams and memory in his late films like "Peggy Sue", "Dracula" and "Jack". It might seem strange and paradoxical, but beyond the horror clichés and the gory make-ups, one can see lots of formal similarities in "Dracula" and "Youth...". The Italian American director is definitely bound to European Romanticism, and he tried to infuse a lot of new symbols (the mirror, the moon on the bluish night sky, the skull etc) to an already symbol-heavy-loaded narrative. Tim Roth is the ideal choice for the central character (old Dominic Matei that grows young after a lightning stroke). The rest of the numerous cast is composed mainly of Romanian actors, most of which are famous in our country. Iures is known for the international public also, and handles his role elegantly, as usual. Maria Lara is a Romanian-born German actress, playing the role of Dominic Matei's lady friend and lover. The relationship between Dominic and Laura is beautifully developed by Coppola's rewriting of the initial novella. Near the end of the film, there is a moment (shot in Malta) where Dominic decides to break away from Laura, because of the dreadful effects of his supernatural youth on her physical condition. Both actors are impressive in this delicate scene.

This film was, all in all, a pleasant surprise for me. I was expecting a more Hollywood-ish speculative and commercial-oriented style. Anyway, I personally (still) think the D.P. and the photographic department in general was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this project. Coppola should of thought more deeply about his choice, because Mihai Malaimare Jr. (the D.P.) and digital imagery was simply not enough ! It took over 2 years to complete this film anyway, so why didn't he use film instead of digital mediums? Was money really a problem here? Maybe Roth asked for a big fee, I don't know. This film won't be appreciated by a wide audience, because Eliade's literature is very special and restrictive (you need to fancy Romanian folklore and oriental philosophies in order to get into this). In fact, Eliade's novella was clearly inspired (as the main title shows) by one of the most beautiful and profound fairy-tales ever: "Tinerete fara batranete si viata fara de moarte" (hard to translate into English, but it might sound like "Eternal youth and life without death"). Even if you are not Romanian, you should check it out! It will change the way you feel about time and life, the way Eliade changed Coppola from an old mainstream Hollywood director into an arty European film experimenter.
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Born again Coppola !
mjsinclair30 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Don't pay too much attention to the press résumé for this film. It has nothing to do with Nazis and American agents. Although they do appear in the film they are not central to its plot, and this is certainly not a spy drama. If this is what you are expecting you risk being severely disappointed. This film will never be a box office smash hit.

No, this is a film which explores the concepts and possibilities of Reincarnation, Karma, Mysticism, Spirituality, and Time. What if time is not linear? What if reincarnation is real? What if human potential could be exponentially enhanced, scientifically? If like me, you are fascinated by these esoteric subjects anyway, and you can forgive the quirks such as "upside down" camera shots, and occasional weak dialogue, then I suspect that you will love this film. It tackles these timeless questions, whilst always managing to be engaging, and entertaining - and it is beautifully shot. At no time did I feel that the film lacked pace or interest.

Bruno Ganz is becoming one of my favourite actors. After Vitus, he turns in another great performance here as the doctor who treats Dominic (Tim Roth) after he has been struck by lightening. A brilliant academic who has sacrificed his entire life to the study of the origin of languages, Dominic knows that, at the age of 70, he will now die without achieving his goal, his life purpose. The lightening bolt burns him to a crisp, but instead of killing him instantly, it gives him a new lease of life, regained youth, super-human brainpower and thus a second chance to complete his life's work.

He also regains the love of his life, now reincarnated as Veronica. Under his power, Veronica regresses back through the ages, each time speaking an older language, until, as she nears the origin, and his work nears completion, he realises that he can have his life's desire, but first there is a test, and a choice to be made.

This fascinating film which Coppola wrote, directed and produced is well constructed and satisfying. It really made me think, and hours after the end, the pennies were still dropping.

In what it sets out to do, for me, it is a great success.
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A heavy and complex movie with deep philosophical implications
siderite3 April 2008
I was flabbergasted to see that a lot of the comments for this film were negative. The fact that the movie is not of a commercial nature doesn't make it bad, it just makes it less accessible. In this manner, it is just as bad for movies as a science paper is for publications.

Anyway, the film is based on a book of Romanian Mircea Eliade, one that I didn't read. Actually, I didn't read most of Eliade's work for the very reasons people bad mouthed this film. Then I entered adolescence :-P.

The film, though, is a resounding success to me. Not only that it is well done, but at the end of it, it let me wanting to understand more and to read the book. Maybe I will one of these days. As the film is impossible to summarize here, I will get to a quick conclusion.

Bottom line: a heavy feeling film, with a complex script and a lot of philosophical ideas of Eliade's scattered through the story; also some of his personal obsessions: orientalism and the loss of the love of his life. I personally think it was a great movie, but it became a bit confused at the end.
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An interesting failure
petra_ste9 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Some moviegoers, no doubt, will call Youth Without Youth "deep", "exquisite", a "metaphysical experience"; others will dismiss it as "unwatchable crap".

To give you an idea, this feels like a movie directed by Terry Gilliam and co-written by Jorge Luis Borges and Philip K. Dick. Its high-concept premise was an opportunity to explore themes like time, loss, regret. Unfortunately, the result is uneven, too ambitious for its own good.

Romania, 1938. Aging language scholar Dominic (Tim Roth) is struck by lighting and inexplicably becomes younger. He also develops an incredible memory which boosts his linguistic skills. When Nazis find out about him, Dominic escapes in Switzerland, where he is hunted down by a German scientist.

In the second half, which feels like a different movie altogether, Dominic meets Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara), identical to Laura - I like the nod to Petrarca here: see the introductory dream, which is basically a "Triumph of the Death" - the woman he loved (and lost) sixty years before. Veronica too is struck by lighting (!) and experiences visions from her previous lives. Dominic uses her mystical journey for his study on the origins of language.

Add to this: some weird powers acquired by Dominic, who can read books by simply staring at them and at some point is also able control guns with telekinesis, like a low-rent Magneto; a cameo appearance by a furry-fingered creature holding a skull, apparently Shiva (?); an incomprehensible subplot about a "double" played by Roth as a mix between Adolf Hitler and Gollum (Coppola even uses the same camera tricks employed by Jackson during the schizophrenic conversations). I kid you not.

I like Roth (The Legend of 1900, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), but his performance here is uneven. As quiet, decent Dominic he is nicely understated; he is somewhat baffling as the already mentioned "double". Is it meant to represent Id? Superego? Or maybe a Jungian shadow? Beats me - and Roth too, I guess.

Luminous Alexandra Maria Lara is remarkable in a challenging and thankless role (after a brief appearance at the beginning she disappears from the movie for a long time).

Although I am not familiar with the novel by Mircea Eliade adapted here, I suspect two things: first, it could be interesting and make more sense than the movie; second, the adaptation suffers from what is called "the slideshow effect": all the best bits from the book glued together with little regard for pacing (which here is totally off) and clarity.

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Cinamtic Brilliance
dani-24428 April 2008
I was surprised and fortunate to find a movie of this caliber by chance, since I'd never heard of the release; at first, I actually thought it was an old movie, one that I hadn't seen.

I' am bewildered and frankly frightened by the obscene IMDb rating of "6.6" - the current evaluation of this movie, by the audiences frequenting these boards - a prime example of the fact that taste is a controversial matter.

Albeit, this movie isn't for everyone; if you regard the world as being a solved puzzle, if you've figured it all out; what it's all about, if nothing mystifies or captivates your senses and entelechy, if you are utterly unenchanted by the magical and mysterious nature of reality, this movie will be a huge disappointment for you. Please don't watch it, since it's not made for you, and hence, you will distort the perception of the movie. In-fact, if any of the latter apply, don't watch this movie, it will only bring grieve.

The movie is stunning in its appearance, the characters are believable, the story is uncompromising, relentless, of an epic nature, and the atmosphere is hypnotic and enchanting.

I was sucked into the world of this strange professor.

I only regard the ending as being less then perfect; however, such movies are never easy to end.

An essential and unique experience.
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Exceptional, But not for everybody
somnorosu200216 November 2008
First of all, i want to express my disgust for people who bash the movie because they didn't enjoy it, or didn't "get it". I accept other people's opinions, it is a free world (most of it anyway), but please stick to just stating your opinion, don't try to change how other people feel about it.

So, in my opinion, first and foremost, if you expect a movie that has drama or action that keeps you glued to your seat, this isn't for you. The plot of the movie has nothing to do with sci-fi, war time action or drama. It is a deeply philosophical movie that appeals to the reality matrix of people, trying to immerse you into some kind of a trance, where you begin to think like the author of the book, and the main character. If you are open minded enough, or a more than average philosophical person, this movie will be quite an experience for you. I know that for me, it was.

I liked it a lot mainly because of the dream/monologue scenes, because they somehow capture the essence of human thought. The doubt, the inner contradictions, the good and the bad sides of the same person. Things that most or all of us do, maybe not in a such out-of-body experience, but it does happen.

I don't want to give to much away, because half of the movie's effect on you has to do with the fact that it catches you off-guard.
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certainly won't be one to show to all (some, frankly, will hate it). but it's challenging in ways filmmakers usually shy away from
Quinoa198412 January 2008
It was bound to happen that Youth Without Youth, the first film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in fifteen years (the first directed in ten), would be lauded by the critics for not being a real "comeback" kind of project. It's surreal, philosophical, mystical, and even has a mood about it that calls as a throwback to old romantic melodramas of the 40s and 50s (hence the opening titles). It's not even any kind of great film. It's pretentious in a few stretches, maybe more-so, and it takes a convoluted explanation that comes second in 2007 film only to Southland Tales for being more complex and bizarre. But unlike Kelly's film, Coppola at least has a hold on what he's doing, or what he's trying to accomplish. Coppola once said that art is all about taking riks, and to make films without risk is like sex without children.

In the grand scheme of things, at least with his career, Youth Without Youth seems to be slightly minor a risk when compared to the likes of Apocalypse Now or One From the Heart. But it's a risk that Coppola takes all the same, and through the intellectual thicket (which, contrary to some critics, isn't completely dense) there is some truly potent cinematic expression. So, the plot, the plot... A linguistics professor, Dominic (Tim Roth) is an old man when he gets struck by lightning in 1938, then proceeds to age back to 40 in recovery, only to then find that he's being watched- and planned for abduction- by Nazi scientists who want to use his newfound super-powers (mostly that he can, at times, harness powerful energy, as Dominic describes as "out of a science fiction novel"). This might be enough for a movie alone, but there's more- years later, a woman from Dominic's past (from before the lightning strike) appears again, also still apparently young, and she can talk in ancient languages, so then...

Yeah, I could go on with that. Suffice to say there's also talk about how this whole time-warp connects into the realm of consciousness itself, or what makes up knowledge or the pursuit of language, and all relating to time, leading up to an ending that flips around itself, all inspired by an old Chinese tale that goes around and around. What it means I still can't quite figure, and it at least shows Coppola won't spoon-feed any kind of easy ending (even the whole "it's only a dream" concept has some holes to fill, leaving ambiguity as something a little more logical). Frankly, I've never read any of the Mircea Eliade's writings, but there's a lot to it that strikes up references to other works. I couldn't help but think the plot, and its themes, were as though Philip K. Dick was forced to make a melodrama- on his own terms- from an unpublished book. Or that there was a connection to the Fountain, or even Dr. Who or something else. The comparisons are endless.

But what remains, at the end of trying to figure out what the hell Youth Without Youth will say as its ultimate message, is an original work, sincerely with the verve of a filmmaker who just says 'f*** it' and makes the movie he wants to make on his own terms (with, subsequently, his own money). If there is any risk to the project it's that Coppola gambles on narrative cohesion with elements like two Dominics following the lightning strike (one of which, of course, prods the other to complete his life's work as a "failure"), or the power of emotion with two people in love vs. the tremendous, daunting task of unlocking secrets of language and consciousness and what time even means. Couple this with technique that veers into the abstract, with upside down camera angles and upfront anti-Nazi imagery ala Indiana Jones, and a music that strikes up the most melancholy and precise of aforementioned melodrama, and it becomes the weirdest hybrid Coppola's ever made.

And yet, and yet, if Youth Without Youth is one thing above all else, it's, well... interesting. I never felt like getting up and even leaving to go to the bathroom much less leaving the film for good. I cared about Dominic and Veronica as I did the direction Coppola took the story (even if pretensions, particularly in the second half, seemed to loop into the equation). And Roth is, not to forget to mention, terrific in the role, seeming to understand where his character may (or may not) be headed as he continues with his research and finds that he is sort of doomed in time unless he goes down a certain path. He even gets to dig into a certain subdued humor underneath the skin of the picture, where a few times there's some laughs to be had at the expense of what's going on with Dominic, as though some old philosopher discovered a comic book and incorporated it into his character. It's a very strange movie experience, and not one I can easily recommend. But I do all the same, and Coppola fans will either like it or, as case is turning out, they wont.
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philosophical art film
omniron1 March 2008
This is definitely not everyone's cup of tea and has a pretty good chance of becoming a cult film. It explores major philosophic subjects from a dialectic angle, which might confuse pedestrians. In a nutshell: an elderly professor is challenged by his inability to complete his life's work. He is struck by lightning and gets the opportunity to observe life from a meta-human POV. He realizes that intellect, love , morals and reality in general are always ambiguous. IMO one must have some intellectual baggage, life experience and artistic curiosity in order to appreciate the profoundness of this film. Artistically, the film is very stylized and has a rather cold feel to it, something that might deter and alienate the viewer from actually empathizing with any of the characters. However, it's quite clever and stays with you after watching it. I would say that it felt to me a bit like a Darren Aronofsky film combined with Greenaway's Tulse Luper.
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Coppala's Best Film Ever!
brenttraft2 June 2008
I know I am in the minority here but in my opinion, "Youth Without Youth" is the best film that Francis Ford Coppala has ever made.

My apologies to fans of "The Godfather" films and "Apocalypse Now." While his more popular masterpieces were certainly well made films, "Youth Without Youth" takes a lot more chances and does not make any compromises.

The film is about a 70 year old man who is struck by lightning. After he recovers from his injuries, he appears to be 30 years younger and does not age for the following 18 years – or maybe not. The ending leaves much to interpretation, which will infuriate many people who are not willing to think for themselves. Parts of the film appear to be dreams sequences (maybe the scenes that start upside down.) Maybe the entire film after the lightning strike is a dream. Maybe the entire film was meant to be taken literally (but probably not.)

At times "Youth Without Youth" seems like a David Lynch film without the horror aspects. There are doppelgangers and people with supernatural powers. It is surreal and strange and some scenes do not make sense in their sequence but are important in the entirety of the film.

"Youth Without Youth" is not a film for everybody. In fact, most people will probably not like it. But if you are a person who is willing to think about a film and bring your own interpretation to what is happening, you might end up loving this film.
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It's Like "Jack" In Reverse, By Which I Mean Good
loganx-212 June 2008
A complex and challenging film, from one of the great American directors, and part of the continuing magical adventures of Tim Roth(The Legend Of 1900), this time around Roth is a linguistics professor trying to develop a theory of the origins of hum...(read more)an language and consciousness at his 70th birthday when he is struck by lightening that reverts him to his youth. Not only is he younger, but he discovers he can read whole books in minutes, see into dreams, and in the films most outlandish moments some limited telekinesis(but in all fairness it's his only way to stop an evil Nazi scientist who wants to jump start human evolution through electro shock). From there our hero meets a women who resembles one he used to know, who is similarly struck by lightening or near lightening which causes her to regress into previous lives. Naturally the two fall in love, and the odd couple are happy enough until her ancient language fits, get more frequent, and dive further and further into primitive languages, much to Roth's joy, though his love ages more and more with each regression.

Like I said Youth Without Youth is an ambitious mix of science fiction, world war 2 spy espionage, romance, meditation on death, aging, linguistics, the origins of consciousness, time, philosophy, the atomic bomb, multiple personalities, and reincarnation.

Watching Youth Without Youth is a bit like reading an overwrought but well written novel, where you can appreciate the skill of the speaker's use of language more than any profound statement being made. Not that Coppola's subjects are not profound, or treated, so, just that's it's done in such a way that at first view it's going to go over just about everyone's head. Author Mircea Eliade, is better known as a religious historian and academic, whose work is as rigorous as his fiction offerings. This is a well made and well performed film, but it's zeal gets ahead of itself on more than one occasion.
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Weird and not as pretentious as I was worried it would be
I_saw_it_happen11 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very good film, and while it certainly demands not only massive suspension of disbelief and patience, as a quarter of the movie is in foreign (and non-existent) languages, it nonetheless accomplishes what I believe it set out to do.

Parts of this movie play like ridiculous parodies of 'film classics', because they seem overacted. But the scenes which matter the most come across as genuine and 'real' by the merit of how subtle and delicately they are acted.

Tim Roth does a great job here, and the sets and production are fantastic.

This movie is worth seeing, and while the end of the movie was somewhat disappointing (for the attempted 'wrap-around' cop-out), this isn't a movie so much about resolution as what remains constant, and meaningful. It is a movie which will, at worst, seem interesting but too self-important; but if you're willing to accept the magical realism which it presents, and accept that you're not supposed to necessarily know, so much as intuit, much of the non-English dialogue... then you can enjoy it, and marvel at it's weirdness.
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A head trip pulp science fiction film about ideas-its not what you think it is
dbborroughs26 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Francis Ford Coppola returns to completing his own films for the first time in 10 years (he's been working on Megalopolis which he's more or less abandoned and done some re-shoots for friends). He's made a film that is probably best described as philosophical pulp. Its based on a deeply philosophical Romanian novella that has haunted him for much of the last ten years.

The plot an aged scholar turning 70 and feeling he has been a failure. Deciding to go to the big city and commit suicide he is struck by lightning not long after arriving and while he is recovering from his injuries it is discovered that he is in fact now seemingly half his age. Its 1938 and during his recovery the Nazi's invade and they take a very keen interest in his condition causing him to flee.

Recounting the plot further (the Nazi bit is more a catalyst then the point since the film covers over 30 years from the point of the lightning strike.) would be foolish since odds are it will leave you incredulous (its very mystical and plays at times like a pulp novel with a great deal on its mind) not to mention give you a false sense of what is really going on. This is a movie that has a definite direction in which it is going and odds are you will not completely see most of it coming. The best thing to do is just buckle up and let the film take you where its going to go. And lets face it this is the sort of story that with slight revision would have fit very nicely in an old copy of Weird Tales. The driving force is very much like a pulp story from the 1930's or 40's.

Its very heady stuff. Reincarnation, personality, the question of what is a successful life, the nature of love, language, atomic war, the evolution of man, what would you do with a second chance, are among the many questions raised by this film. The plot is not constructed to be just a ripping story, but rather a means to the examination of the ideas that Coppola is tossing about. Coppola has hung a great many ideas and notions on his narrative threads and he's done so in such away that in order to navigate through the maze the threads form you will have to deal with the laundry hanging from them.

Its this juggling of ideas in a pulp frame work that has been the bane of this film. I know that many people don't know what Coppola was getting at, I'm not entirely sure myself. The plot seems almost silly, its almost like Stephen Kings Golden Years but spiced up with almost too many ideas. No doubt its confused people who were looking for another Godfather, Bram Stokers Dracula, The Rainmaker or any other Coppola film. Its not something that an American filmmaker would make, certainly not one of Coppola's pedigree.

Then again I would argue it is. the film is very much a European film. It looks and feels like a film that belongs in the line up of a European director. There is nothing typically American in the film at all. It feels alien when compared to most American films. Though if you look at the scenes in Italy in the Godfather, or even the first two Godfather films in total, this film fits neatly into how the earlier films feel visually. There is a lyric beauty and sense of place and time that is rare in films. there is a poetry.

Its a film you will have to think about. You have to be willing to let the film go and do what ever it wants to. Certainly one can easily dismiss it as not meeting your expectations, but doing so will cause you to miss out on a film that will get your little gray cells going.

Is it a perfect film. No. I like the film and think its a good film. I think its a grasp exceeds its reach. To be perfectly honest somewhere in the last 20 minutes the film shifts gears and goes into a coda (Coppola's words in the commentary) that ends the film. Its here I think that the film falters since I don't think the ending really works. No doubt its what the end of the original story is (in the commentary Coppola talks about what he had to do to make it work on screen) but its something that didn't translate to the screen well. I was left wondering what it all was about in total. Don't get me wrong I didn't hate it, but I just felt out of sorts and desirous of a second viewing where all of the bits through the film might come together.

Perhaps thats the best thing I can say about the film, its not a film one should dismiss until one has had a chance to see the film twice since there are too many pieces that don't connect up until the very end.

Worth a look for those willing to work with the film, those will expectations go and for those that like head trips.

7ish out of 10
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Romance without Love: Coppola's Obsessive Fixations
mindrec12 May 2008
I've seen movies that purport to reveal great truths. Those movies fall flat because the revelations they make are not very revealing. This movie doesn't reveal truths of that sort but nonetheless shows the mindset and tribulations of people who (at least claim to) know great things.

There are HINTS of paranoia, loves lost, sacrifices made; strange paradoxes (body doubles, visual incongruities, time warps); and great "evils" (Hitler, mad scientists, Nuclear bombs). But none of these are resolved to my satisfaction.

So, the movie leaves one with this "final" thought: Though there are suggestions that somehow love (or some other sort of gender confusion / identity crisis) might resolve "everything"; nonetheless, life is morbid. We psychotically BELIEVE in love, genius, greatness, and eternal youth as we EXPERIENCE bloody-red roses, Hitler, hallucinations, and death.

Romantic? Maybe not. But a lesson in really GOOD movie making.
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Three Roses, Four Walls, Five Dimensions...
ThurstonHunger6 September 2009
I saw mention of "Altered States" in the comments section, but I think a more apt parallel might be "The Fountain" by Aronofsky. In that film, an intellectual pursuit is pitted in juxtaposition to the more human pursuit of love. In "The Fountain" science is the pursuit and it is employed towards the end of salvaging a relationship, whereas with Coppola the pursuit is philosophy and its pursuit decidedly comes first symbolically and then physically at the unraveling of love.

So, yes this is a cerebral film. One that is driven often by dialog, including dialog conducted between a man and his double...and also in a language of the protagonists own creation. And yet the message here, while convoluted never came across as mere gibberish to me.

Instead, I hear the echoes of an old man, Coppola, who perhaps has seen his own life, and maybe lives of those around him, consumed by his own calling. And with the double, what film maker cannot feel the presence of a vying reality. Here we have mirrors, like Coppola's "Rumble Fish" shadows, that do not match the reality they should reflect.

I felt like the lightning strike could be seen as a character's epiphany that he is indeed a character in a story. More fifth dimension than fourth wall. But nonetheless fascinating. A superhero of sorts is born, but not exactly a Marvel.

Back to Aronofky's "Fountain" that film for me got bogged down in the trompe du CG-eye, whereas in "Youth Without Youth" whoever did the scenery scouting should be applauded. I felt more grounded in the real, yet often captivating, world filmed. (Was Malta, Malta or just another aspect of Romania?) Too bad I didn't feel the same way about casting, although others here have lauded Roth and Ganz, they were weaker links for me in their particular roles. Clearly Roth's role/s was/were demanding, for me he has the nervous energy of someone looking over his shoulder, more than a man lost in an inward gaze. A better maniac than a monomaniac. And Ganz, it felt like all of his lines were re-dubbed, to the point of a CGI-level distraction.

Nonetheless, a film with tricky mirrors provides some interesting reflection. Ultimately the film neither flaunts love as the salvation, nor rigorous study as providing an ultimate reward. For me the message was not even mystical, but simply that nature will claim every man.

Sure as the snow...
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Fascinating, Demanding, Frustrating
Eumenides_015 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Most reviews haven't lied about this movie: it is elliptic, it is cryptic; it is full of self-indulgent pseudo-intellectualism and cheap symbolism. The plot meanders and doesn't make complete sense. These things are all true… and yet I found myself liking it very much.

I wanted to watch this movie for no other reason other than that I had never seen a Coppola movie on the big screen. Being 23, I'm afraid I've missed all his earlier great ones; and when I finally grow up he stops making movies. So imagine my enthusiasm when he interrupts his 10-year-old break. Another reason, less superficial, is that I simply like linguistics, a topic which is very much at the centre of this movie, as the main character, Dominic Matei (in a delightful performance by Tim Roth), struggles to find the origins of language and human consciousness. This is the plot at its simplest. Adding more details would involve bringing up transmigration of souls, rejuvenation, Nazis, multiple personalities, Chinese philosophy, dead languages (I'll have to add Protoelamite to my vocabulary), and a few more things.

Technically speaking, the movie is outstanding; I understand this movie was a critical and commercial failure, but still the spite it has received from every awards institution is disheartening. The cinematography, by Mihai Malaimare Jr, rivals anything made in 2007. The beautiful music by Osvaldo Golijov is superior to anything Dario Marianelli, Alberto Iglesias or Michael Giachinno composed this year. The make-up is amazing: it has to be, considering it needs to realistically portray Tim Roth and the beautiful Alexandra Maria Lara as old people. The art direction and costume design are also beautiful: this movie starts in the 30's and goes all the way to the '50s, travelling across the globe and making occasional flashbacks to 19th century Romenia, so imagine how many different sets and eras they had to recreate. How come this aspect of the movie was ignored by the Academy or BAFTAS, for instance, is beyond me.

The acting is superb and the movie benefits from a fantastic ensemble: Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, André Hennicke, and even Matt Damon in a cameo. Without so many good actors, especially without Roth, the movie could have been unbearable. For truth be told, Coppola is trying to bite more than he can chew. He certainly has intellectual ambitions in this movie, which is admirable nowadays (more admirable is that he made this movie as he envisioned it, without interference), but he lacks the panache to pull them off. Having been ready for it, I didn't find it too off-putting, but I can understand why other people would react so aggressively towards it.

'Youth Without Youth' is a fascinating, demanding, frustrating movie. It's definitely not for everyone. But it still has a lot of artistic merit, and if anything else it shows Coppola still knows how to bring big ideas into movies, which only leaves me more enthused about his next movie, 'Tetro'.
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Coppola's Powell/Pressberger fantasy
x2frnz19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you are the sort who must have their films make any sort of sense or stick doggedly to one genre, this is NOT a film for you. There are worm holes through the plot big enough to send Jodie Foster through. This time they sent a poet and this is a real art film! It is also a tribute to the great work of Michael Powell and Emil(?) Pressberger who made THE RED SHOES, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, THIEF of BAGDAD et al. The plot felt like the genie from THIEF of BAGDAD picked me up by my pants leg and dipped me repeatedly into a blender of all the episodes of TWILIGHT ZONE and a few Borges stories. Time Travel? Yep! Parallel realities? Absolutely! Nazis? Uh Huh! Mind Control? Why not? Manual book scanning, reincarnation, automatic writing, possession, reincarnation, sudden aging? Well, why the heck not? Bad puns about THE MALTESE FALCON? What kind of birds did you expect to see in Malta? Of course they go to Malta! To the best of my knowledge, there are no wolverines, werewolves or vampires. I hope that doesn't stop you seeing a ridiculous, beautiful and confounding film. There is a beautiful score by Golijov and wonderful sound design by Walter Murch. FFC has made some great movies. I hope he'll make many more. It was a joy to indulge in this flight of egocentric fancy!
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A note first on style, to me, Youth Without Youth, is one of the most gorgeous modern films, it's one of the few films where the production team are exerting control to the extent when they can be described as using a palette. In this case the colours orange and blue predominate beautifully. There has been some suggestion in modern criticism, particularly in Sight & Sound, that "orange & teal" is a ugly fad that no-one will miss, I think Youth Without Youth is definitely deserving of special treatment. Certainly the blue here is less dingy than elsewhere in the "orange & teal" canon.

The film is about a once brilliantly gifted scholar, Dominik Mattei (played by Tim Roth), who appears to have wasted his life, and is now an old man, when suddenly he gets a second chance and returns to youth. The film is interesting, how did he waste his life? Is it because he didn't complete his life's work, a great book which was to contain a grand unifying theory on consciousness and the origins of language, or because he didn't pay enough attention to his beloved Laura?

There are two main points of interest in the film for me, one relates to the allure of the situation Mattei is in and the dilemma it presents, and the other to the structure. As a teenager I read Daniel Keyes' 1959 novella Flowers For Algernon, which, in two different forms, has the rare prestige of having won both of science fiction's key writing awards, the Hugo and the Nebula. It's about an experiment performed on Charlie, a man with a very low IQ, who as a result of the experiment, progressively becomes the most intelligent man alive. At one point he criticises the scientist who performs the experiment, mentioning that the best rebuttal of his theories yet written has come from India. The scientist says he has not ever heard of the document which he discovers was written in Hindustani, and which he was therefore not in the position to read anyway. Charlie records, "I asked Dr. Strauss how Nemur could refute Rahajamati's attack on his method and results if Nemur couldn't even read them in the first place. That strange look on Dr. Strauss' face can mean only one of two things. Either he doesn't want to tell Nemur what they're saying in India, or else - and this worries me - Dr. Strauss doesn't know either."

One key point of Flowers For Algernon, and also this film, is the allure of supernatural intelligence: what would our thoughts be if we had IQs in the thousands and could read books at a glance? The key tone of the Flowers is sadness, as we find that Charlie's new found faculties are temporary in nature and subside gradually. This tone dovetails with the film as well, because another of the key features of both artworks is the conflict between intellect and emotion. Is it more important to love, or to embrace aloof intellectual pursuits? My slanter tells you all you need to know about my position! In any case it's a very sad story, and I believe that is the heart of Youth Without Youth as well, it's an elegy.

The parts of the film where senile Mattei is shown are very poignant and remind me of Mr Blank from Paul Auster's book Travels in the Scriptorium. Both men are vaguely aware of their past mistakes, and also both men are utterly alienated. A kind of tender nastiness pervades these bits if that isn't too oxymoronic. Francis Ford Coppola has mentioned his identification with Mattei, particularly regarding his failure to complete his sci-fi project Megalopolis.

My other point concerns the structure. There's a passage towards the end where the Mattei describes an oriental tale of a dream where a prince dreams that he is a butterfly which dreams it is a prince, who dreams he was a butterfly (et cetera). It's not clear in this film just which parts are dreamt, and which not, or whether that matters. It's more that the overall aesthetic conception of Mattei's story of the prince and the butterfly is what matters. In this sense it is similar to the Saragossa Manuscript or the 1001 Arabian Nights, where it is, to a large extent, the structure itself that intoxicates.

There is also the issue of familiar to readers of Watchmen, of whether demi-god powers should be used for good or evil (whether indeed it is right to interfere in human destiny at all), or whether they should be directed internally towards solipsism. This makes Roth is well cast, he is a typecast baddie, and this aura of badness here allows this ambiguity to take root. The film also sounds wonderful, and this is mainly due to the ethereal tone of the cymbalom.

If you liked Tim Roth in this film I suggest you watch another movie in which he stars, The Legend of 1900 directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, which is also wonderful in a similar enigmatic way.

And this review is dedicated to Claire, who is the first rose.
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The language of time
Prismark1019 April 2015
Francis Coppola's last mainstream Hollywood film was The Rainmaker and before that it was the critically maligned Jack. Since then the legend of cinema has walked away from being a director for hire. I guess he is still smarting from the failure of his Zoetrope Studios.

In Youth without Youth Coppola turns to European art cinema and not for the first time. His black and white Rumble Fish was heavily influenced by the German Expressionist style.

Tim Roth plays Dominic a 70 year old man in Pre World War 2 Romania, who is struck by lightning and is rejuvenated astounding his doctor (Bruno Ganz).

Dominic is 30 years younger with a regenerated body, he even grows new teeth, he undergoes various tests put to him by his doctors. However it is not only the physical body that has improved, also his mental faculties have gone through a quantum leap. This also arouses the interests of the Nazis once the war erupts.

Of course Dominic hides that he has an alter ego that converses with him and seems to have enhanced powers himself. Also whereas the older Dominic was striving to finish his life's work in the origins of linguistics, now he has the time to research and write further. He speaks many Oriental languages now he can read by just looking at a book.

As the war rages on Dominic escapes to Switzerland to continues his research. In the 1950s, a meeting with a woman called Veronica who reminds him of Laura, a lost love turns the film further on its head. Veronica transmigrates to another soul back in time such as an early disciple of Buddha in ancient India. She keeps going back further in time speaking in ancient languages enabling Dominic to get very near to the first spoken text but at the risk of losing Veronica for good.

The film is a mixture of vision and story. It could easily be something that could had been made by that other American filmmakers Terrence Malick or David Lynch. The film sets its stall out with the European Art-house cinema style, it is not a literal movie as the film feels dreamlike. You do wonder if this is all a dream of Dominic after being struck by lightning.

The film is little known but I was surprised by how accessible it was and how much I enjoyed the film. Coppola has never been afraid to experiment and at times he has misfired badly. Even here some of the scenes set in India does not convince as they are too modern with modern cars driving past. There is even a shot of The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai that crops up in scenes set in Uttar Pradesh.

However this is an intriguing, experimental even a slightly unnerving film. Roth should be given plaudits for drawing the viewer in and keeping them invested in his character.

Youth without Youth shows the world that Coppola is still a master filmmaker.
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Review: Youth Without Youth
bloodymonday13 June 2008
In "Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", a brilliant documentary about making of "Apocalypse Now", Francis Ford Coppola said he was on a learning process while making that film, as he delved into mysteriousness of jungle. In the end, his on-screen works is like a reflection to his own experience. Many years later (20 years to be exact) and 10 years absent from his latest directorial effort (1997's "The Rain Maker"), Coppola tried to do exact same thing like he did in the past.

"Youth Without Youth" is interesting, yet undeniably confusing tale of Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) who is a professor of language and philosophy in early 19th century. His goal is trying to accomplish a research that he claims to be the key of all human's language. But as it turns out, it might be impossible to finish it after all. This research changed his behavior from fascination into obsession. As he lose everything he loves including his fiancé, Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara), he has nothing left to live on. Many years later, in a blink of World War II, 77-years-old Dominic is on the way to end his miserable life. But then, lightening suddenly stuck at him before he has a chance to do so. The lightening didn't kill him, instead it miraculously rejuvenates his life. Now, he looks like in mid-30's and gave him a supernatural abilities like reading book without open it, mind bending psychic or even developing his own Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde-like ultra-ego.

After World War II's over, Dominic is traveling throughout the world. He began to look into his research again since now he has a plenty of times to do. But then, he accidentally met his fiancé's dead ringer named Laura (also played by Alexandra Maria Lara). As it turned out, she also happened to be stuck by lightening and develops another supernatural ability which she can speak ancient languages while she slept. Dominic knows right away that it might be an only chance for him to accomplish his unfinished project. But it came with one sacrifice condition, if he decides to stay with her, it might be the way to ending her life.

There's an only one different thing between getting lost in the jungle of Philippines and getting lost in freezing cold city of Romania. And that is "Youth Without Youth" lose its audience's commitment as we keep accompany him to his personal enlightenment (in another words, he wasn't wholeheartedly let us ride along in this time around). With his beyond comprehensible dialogs about metaphysical theory and non-linear stories that keep tangled up like a maze, Youth Without Youth seem to be a failure. No, it's magnificent failure from the master of modern cinema living today.

The cast is another story here, since they served their duty pretty well especially Tim Roth (again, one of the most unused actor living today) who would do all it take to make us believe in the protagonist. And he seemed to really understand what Francis Ford Coppola is trying to achieve. The movie also accompanied by beautiful score (if shamelessly cloying) by Osvaldo Golijov and surprisingly neat cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr.

"Youth Without Youth" require a multiple viewing, in order to understand some of its massages. Truth be told, I didn't really get it. Coppola once said in the interview that this story is very personal to him. Well, maybe this film wasn't exactly making for us. It's sure gonna make a lot of people frustrated. For me, I'm just glad that he's back to work again.
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Francis Ford Discombobulator
janos4514 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When a godfather of American cinema returns from retirement after a decade, that's bound to be interesting, at least.

In case of Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth," the event also turned out to be "interesting," in the sense of saying politely, "What the hell?!"

In the over-hyped and underwhelming "Golden Compass," characters are accompanied by their "demons" in animal form. Coppola goes that one better in "Youth" by having a friendly alter ego of the Professor tag along in the flesh and have conversations with himself (until one kills the other). However, personalities do not split during sequences that are projected upside-down. Why two characters, why upside-down scenes? These and other mysteries may or may not be explained during the film. In my case, no explanation was discerned; might well have been my fault.

The Professor (of linguistics) is played by Tim Roth. He is 70 at the beginning of this two-hour adventure in deep thought and annoying puzzles, but early on, he gets hit by lightning, and turns into 40. His teeth fall out, but he grows new ones. The place is Romania and the time is the 1930s. Old and young Professor is in love with Hitler's secretary, and the newly young man is treated for his lightning burns and understandable confusion by Hitler himself.

OK, this is not fair. "Youth" is confusing enough without fooling around with actors and characters, so let me give you the straight poop: the doctor is played by Bruno Ganz (Hitler in the magnificent "Downfall"), and the Woman is Alexandra Maria Lara, who was Traudl Junge in "Downfall," the young woman through whose eyes life in the bunker became revealed.

Ganz and Lara have been sensational in just about everything they have done. In "Youth," not so much. Whether speaking English or, in case of the Woman, Sanskrit, Urdu, or Before-History Language, there is a sense of Tiger-Lilly-subtitle disconnect in their performances.

What's with those languages? They are very important. The Professor wants to find the origin of human speech (starting in Romania, of course), and the Woman is de-evolving in a complying fashion. Why? How? To what end? Meaning what? Search me - I never went beyond a master's degree in philosophy, and my philological explorations terminated with Leonard Bernstein's facile, shallow, and entertaining exposition in the Norton Lectures.

Honestly, I am stalling here, because I just cannot think of anything to say except "interesting." Well, maybe "galling." Two hours of weirdness, looking for meaning, not having any, watching something so self-indulgent that it will make your teeth hurt - and you won't have new ones growing.

Let's hear it for Ganz's Doctor, however, with his quaint method of sterilization: after handling blood or before performing a procedure, he wipes his hands on his jacket. Consistently. Roth's character, in addition to the quest for the origin of language, he is also dealing with the meaning of time, of life, of meaning. Unlike Douglas Adams, who had provided the answer to life, universe, and everything (42), "Youth" will give you no clue whatsoever.

Most of the film was shot in Romania, almost in secret. There are Romanian locations, crew, and cast. The little country has a lot of talent: Romanians also act as Italian philologists, Indian sages, German scientists, what have you. Most of them and Roth do well. A surprise in the soundtrack: Coppola hired one of the most promising youngish composers in the world, Osvaldo Golijov (U.S. resident, born in Argentina, of a Romanian mother), who instead of providing one of his brilliantly original scores, came up with Mahler quotes and variations on them.

Coppola is writer, director, producer, financing the project by himself. Why did he make it? "Like the leading character, I was tortured and stumped by my inability to complete an important work. At 66, I was frustrated. I hadn't made a film in eight years. My businesses were thriving, but my creative life was unfulfilled."

And so to "Youth" - a vanity project, a pile of muddleheaded philosophizing without the restraint of investors, studio politics and demands, or of good sense. He wanted to learn "how to express time and dreams cinematically," Coppola has said. "Making a movie is like asking a question, and when you finish, the movie itself is the answer." For "Youth," the "answer" at the end of two hours is: "What was the question?"
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Coppola's curate's egg
jaibo19 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a curate's egg of a movie, which gets points from me for its sheer steadfast refusal to engage with the concerns and styles of contemporary multiplex cinema (compare Scorsese's sometimes craven immersion in them). Coppola has created a fragmented, ruminative, strange and potentially pretentious odyssey through parts of 20th century history, as his mysteriously revivified protagonist struggles with issues of love, mortality and the roots of human language over the course of three decades. There's something of Nietzsche's superman, and of course Goethe's Faust, about the professor who almost commits himself to writing a masterpiece of human comprehension, but is forever failing due to his all too human concerns with fellow feeling and that old devil called love.

The Nietzschean theme has haunted Coppola's work before - compare Kurtz in Apocalypse Now or the title character of Tucker. The film made me think that Coppola's central thematic concern is that of individual loneliness - that striving to achieve greatness which puts a man (it's always a man) outside of genuine relationships, destined in the grasp of achievement to lose his true love, who stands for his soul. Michael Corleone and Count Dracula are both worthwhile comparison characters. Youth Without Youth is haunting and fertile, without being a wholly successful film. But it's refusal to be an accessible contemporary product kind of makes me like it more than it perhaps deserves...
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Life is but a dream
Karfoo14 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have never heard of this film, and bought it on the strength of Coppola and Tim Roth. What a delight it proved to be.

Having said that, I do find one of the theme, that of trying to find our origin, to that "inarticulate moment", which I think refers to the origin of wisdom, being a futile quest a bit sad. One takes a lifetime, and even that isn't enough. One makes sacrifices along the way, and even that isn't enough. In the end, it is still beyond the grasp of us human beings.

Another theme of the film is actually "spelled out" in the film itself, albeit in Chinese. Just as Morpheus asked Neo: "What is real?"

At the beginning of the film, Dominic is learning Chinese. He writes and pronounces fragments from the tale of Zhuang Zhou dreaming of himself being a butterfly who dreams of itself being human who dreams of himself being a butterfly ... and so on.

At the end of the film, Dominic actually explains this concept to his imaginary, old colleagues.
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One viewing is all I need
sunznc6 September 2009
I'm stupid enough to be really honest here. I didn't completely understand all of the film. I didn't. I know the film is about perception and time but there is more here and I'm human enough to say I can't quite put it all together. The acting is excellent. The photography beautiful. The locations used were fantastic. I did enjoy the film but I really didn't find it all that engaging. Perhaps that is because I didn't grasp all of it. Not a bad film by any means but it got a little bit weird in certain parts and I don't think everyone is going to love it. I'm glad I saw the film but wouldn't sit through it again.
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funniest film of the year
manuelcorbelli28 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I am looking in my memory if i can find a worse nutty screenplay in some obscure 70's b-movie but i really can't think of anything so ridiculous and grotesque that is at same time so "ambitious". except for some good filmography, the movie is a real disaster. A large variety of cheap exotic stereotypes that remind of commercials, a confusing, silly and pretentious mixture of fashionable oriental philosophies, low-budget science-fiction, the exorcist, ultra-shallow pseudo-philosophy on human consciousness and time. (But plenty of big, "difficult" words to make you think this is really serious stuff, man!) I could quote some really funny dialogs: "what birds do they have in Malta" "that's a Maltese falcon" (surely very typical of Malta, no doubt about it!) "when i saw you in the cavern, i thought that if i had been 3 or 4 years older, i would marry you" (why the damn just three or four years older???) "the metha... what is that??" anyway, you must see it - and hear it - to believe it. I specially found hilarious the part where Tim Roth invents his own language and start babbling something in a very funny language and also the part where the girl continuously goes through exorcist-like night crisis and each time swtiches to a different language: Sumerian, Babylonian (maybe northern Babylonian?) And the haunting question: where do you want me to put the third rose? (and everyone secretly thinking: up your ass!!!) I really felt ashamed for poor Coppola but still it was hilarious. Movies like this must have a serious psychiatric impact on the public.
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A great director lost in Romania
Chris Knipp4 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This meandering recreation of a novella by Miorcea Eliade (famous as the author of 'The Myth of the Eternal Return') largely set and shot in Eliade's native Romania is Coppola's first movie in ten years. Its satisfyingly lush mise-en'scène and sweeping scope show the hand of a master, who's used the relatively economical facilities of Eastern Europe to great effect. But the hand falters and the effort is misguided. 'Youth WIthout Youth' is a pointless farrago of time travel and creaky science whose vaguely tendentious arc is puzzling, to say the least, and wholly uninvolving.

Don't take my word for it--it's been a while since I read that book by Eliade in college and I probably didn't really understand it all that well at the time--but the author, who's linked with Jung and taught at the University of Chicago, was keen on 'hierophany,' or the idea of the manifestation of the sacred in the profane everyday world. He thought that was what myths were all about: breakthroughs of the sacred into the profane or manifestations of the divine, which he liked to call 'hierophanies.' Eliade was one of those thinkers, like Karl Jung and Joseph Campbell, who found a way to make sense of all the world's stories. He also had a troubling sympathy for extreme right wing politics.

Youth Without Youth is a story about a seventy-year-old man, Professor Dominic Matei (Tim Roth), a brilliant but funbling professor in Romania in 1938 who's still grieving over a broken engagement with his lost love Laura (the protean Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara) forty years before and despairs of ever completing his lifelong project, a book (rather like Mr. Casaubon's "Key to All Mythologies" in George Eliot's 'Middlemarch') that traces the ultimate origin of the world's languages. Reviewers suggest--and Coppola may himself have confirmed this--that the director identifies with Matei's frustration due to the forever-delayed completion of his "Megalopolis" project. And here is where Eliade's fantasy comes in: Matei's struck with a bolt of lightening that ought to have fried him down into a puddle of dark essence, but instead he quickly revives in hospital as a much younger man who, somehow or other--don't ask me--can bond anew with Laura and through her (because she seems to have become a medium time-traveling back to Sanscrit, then Babylonian and who knows what) to the origin of tongues.

But wait a minute. Is this the feisty, off-kilter Tim Roth who blended so well into Quentin Tarantino's feistier moments in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction? Do we really feel comfortable watching him earnestly seeking the most primitive of all tongues? Roth has proved himself as versatile as Ms. Lara, but somehow he lacks the gravitas or the good looks for this job.

Anyway, Professor Stanciulescu (Bruno Ganz), the supervising physician, wants to observe Matei's miraculous revival, but a Nazi doctor starts sneaking in to steal him away, using a sexy undercover agent known only as the "Woman in Room 6" (Alexandra Pirici). Things get hokier and hokier, as a Doppelganger Matei pops in representing his more rational, scientific side, and Matt Damon helps him change identities and slip away from the bad guys. Fast (but no very) forward to 1955 and Matei finds a young woman who exactly resembles his lost Laura. She's hiding in a cave after a car crash and speaking only Sanscrit.

This is like a series of "Twilight Zone" episodes cut together without proper transitions. Two hours isn't a terribly, terribly long time for a movie to run but it can seem pretty long when things get this dicey, and it didn't help to have to stop right in the middle of all this and stare into space for a while during the traditional Italian "Intervallo". In the end the story of a Faustian search for the world's secrets and for eternal youth just sort of dribbles away into a finale that lacks finality--or even closing credits.

Seen in the Metropolitan Cinema on the Via del Corso in Rome, October 30, 2007 with the original soundtrack. It was moved here from the recent Rome Film Festival, as was Roy Andersson's 'You the Living.' Unlike the latter, it was being shown with the original soundtrack, but considering the stilted and often dubbed dialogue, that was less of a virtue than it might sound. The most interesting thing about this movie is Coppol's largely successful effort to produce grandiose effects using the bargain location of Romania. To some extent, that worked. But this isn't the first instance of Coppola going out on a limb on a project. This time a masterpiece most definitely was not the result. The conventional cinematography is attractive, but the occasional use of upside-down shots is pointless, and the music isn't very interesting.
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