Youth without Youth (2007)

As a script writer for hire and script consultant, I’m aware and have blogged before about how some films grow and seems to change as you (the viewer) gets older.

A good example, of the phenomenon, for me is Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth without Youth.  I saw ‘Youth without Youth’ back in 2007/2008 when it first came out.  I watched the film all the way through and left it puzzled, and disappointed. 

What was that one about I thought? And it seemed the critics had a similar reaction.

That was then, this is now, and today I consider ‘Youth without Youth’ a masterpiece, and one of the loveliest looking films I’ve ever seen. The plot, which I found confusing at best in 2007, I now find intriguing and lovely. The duality of man, the elastic nature of time and consciousness, the quest for the unknown and love, painful and delicious, and memory, unrealiable,unpredicatable, not to be trusted…  This is a film about the nature of life.

I was reading an old book recently that covered Coppola’s career after ‘Apocalypse Now’, around the time he was buying studios and trying to launch ‘electronic cinema’.  This would have been the type of film he was looking to make.  The venture was ill founded, but it appears this script was written many years before even that time. And Coppola sat on it, and waited for the time he could make it without hindrance or pressure to deliver another blockbuster (I believe ‘Tetro’ has a similar production history).  So, he finally made the film in 2007, when he wasn’t really considered a major director anymore (but, this is one of his best films, one of his major films).

As part of my recent reading on Francis, I came across a prominent critic, who was very hard on Coppola because he considered that after ‘The Godfather’ Coppola only became interested in THE VISUAL aspects of movie making, and that everything else, sat behind how his films looked.  I was a bit shocked to read such a criticism.  Coppola, surely was an actor’s director?  And a literary filmmaker?  The critic’s complaint seemed something more likely to be levelled at Brian De Palma, Ridley Scott?  But then I began to think…

Coppola, and this isn’t a criticism has made some of the most visual striking films of all time?  Apocalypse Now (it’s a given) but also, Rumblefish? One from the Heart? The Conversation, Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Even minor works like The Outsiders, Tucker: A Man and His Dream, The Cotton Club have a strong, sometimes experimental visual style.  It’s odd, but I had never really considered Coppola as some ultra visual stylist – daft really, as my main influence as a director is probably RumbleFish…  And so, ‘Youth without Youth’ looks brilliant too, and at times is as experimental as anything coming from younger directors, out to prove their style, at the start of a career.

Tim Roth is fabulous, Alexandra Maria Lara is great too (why wasn’t she in more major films?) the script is spot on, oblique and poetic  (a labyrinth that I couldn’t crack on first viewing) music, production design and everything else is just sumptuous.

And so, I actually think this film sits somewhere in my top ten, or top twenty or thirty, and I think it will rise up the ranks as time creeps on me and you, and all of us. Maybe, by the time I fall off the perch it will be my favourite film….

So Coppola, under the radar and out of sight, made another masterpiece in 2007. When nobody was expecting it and not many were still watching…