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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Science Fiction > Literature > Youth Without Youth (2007/Sony Blu-ray + DVD-Video)

Youth Without Youth (2007/Sony Blu-ray + DVD-Video)


Picture: B+/C+     Sound: B+/B     Extras: B-     Film: B-



It has been ten years already since Francis Coppola delivered the underrated legal thriller The Rainmaker (reviewed elsewhere on this site) from the John Grisham book and I have pleasantly enjoyed a recent wave of friends and associates discovering how good it really is.  Because it was not some grand epic like The Godfather or Apocalypse Now that critics wanted to rally around, he was too quickly abandoned by the critics and the additional abandonment by the film theory crowd has been nothing short of inexcusable.  But that has not stopped Coppola from working and innovating, even on his time off.


Youth Without Youth was released towards the end of 2007 and once again, it did not get anywhere near the attention it deserved, which is amazing considering how much the first two Godfather are being overplayed on cable TV (no pun intended) criminally to death.  So what gives?  Was it a disappointment?  Did it not work?


Well, the premise itself is from a short story by Mircea Eliade, a very good idea and one that is more than interesting enough that once you read the following, you will wonder why you had not heard of it.


70-year-old Dominic Matei (Tim Roth, impressive in one of his best roles to date) is a linguistics professor who never seems to have enough time to finish his work.  He is a smart man on the cutting edge of his field and one night, when he wonders out into the cold, is hit by a lighting bolt.  Instead of killing him, it starts to reverse his age to the point that he is suddenly 40 years old.  Doctors at the hospital he is admitted to are stunned, but he is soon on his way.  Unfortunately, this is Europe in the early 1930s and the Nazis are on the march.  They know of him, his case and suddenly want him captured.


Usually, this would be the set-up for a great Science Fiction/Thriller, but instead of going the shallow obvious route, Coppola decides to make this a character study and adds the twist of an old romance in Dominic’s life that adds to the stakes of what he will do or not do with his life, if he gets away from those who would like to capture him and make him an experimental guinea pig for the rest of his life.  Even worse, if the Nazis can figure out why this is happening, they could take the findings and use it to make their soldiers all the tougher to kill and realize their sick dreams of a super-race!


Coppola’s script does not spoon feed this to the audience, making it as challenging at times as The Conversation, but it is also made with an intelligence and maturity those who recently enjoyed the likes of No Country For Old Men will be happy to jump into.  There is nuance, subtlety, detail and a world of sexually mature, three-dimensional people filling this world as is the case with the best of Coppola’s work (even when they are teens in his Hinton adaptations, they are realistic teens) and Youth never fails at this.


The cast is also very good, including Bruno Ganz, but I was just constantly impressed how realized Coppola’s cinematic vision (especially in visual language) was realized throughout.  He can out-direct just about anyone alive and for the few who are on his high level, can keep up with any of them.  He is one of the great architects of cinema, not just in the U.S., but worldwide, something he never says but it just a flat-out fact.  Just when you think you have scene some of the worst films ever made, here is a genius who picks up a new technology like HD, shoots a feature this rich and proves cinema is far from dead.  For serious film fans, Youth Without Youth is a must-see, the kind you’ll want to watch over & over and is a real treasure to behold.



Of the few non-comedy features shot in digital High Definition that were consistent, consistent looking and worked (Fincher’s Zodiac, Tony Scott’s Déjà vu, Sidney Lumet’s Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Scott Frank’s The Lookout, Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job), the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image here pushes HD color like no other HD production to date.  While the other films are rich thrillers with a muted color look, without gutting the color, Coppola and his Director of Photography Mihai Malaimare, Jr. push the format into new territory as soon as the first scene.


In the credits, the red rose becomes an ironic image and a great demo, as Video Red is the color HD has yet to conquer.  For any HD system, the less maroon and more natural this looks, the better your system is reproducing red in general.  There are some moments of slight motion blur and places where the Video Black is weak, along with other minor flaws, but it is a good looking production on par with One From The Heart (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and Tucker, putting into action some interesting ideas that Coppola has about misé-en-scene that are distinctly his.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD is not bad, but Video Black is weak throughout and the low def format has difficulties with the color Blu-ray does not.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on the Blu-ray is very good, with articulate dialogue, Osvaldo Golijov’s impressive music score and a distinct sound mix by the editor of the image, the amazing Walter Murch who has been working with Coppola for decades.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is actually one of the best Dolby mixes we have heard on any DVD and proves once again (as the DVD of Apocalypse Now did) that no one knows how get maximum performance out of the limited and now dated Dolby Digital 12:1 compression scheme as Coppola and Murch do.  The mix also has fine passages of silence, interesting ambiance sound and is succeeds in furthering the narrative very effectively.


Extras are the same on both versions and include another must-hear feature length audio commentary by Coppola and three fine featurettes on the making of the film.  One is on the music, one on the make-up and one on the overall production.  Sony has come up with two top rate versions in their formats for this underrated release and hopefully, Youth Without Youth will be quickly picked up and rediscovered as the ambitious Coppola original it is.  Blu-ray fans will want this one ASAP!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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