STUDIO: Miramax Films
RUNNING TIME: 368 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: English Subtitles
“If Warhol can do it with his 485 minute Empire, then we can do it with our 368 minute Italian film.”
Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Fabrizio Gifuni, Maya Sansa, Valentina Carnelutti, Jasmine Trinca, and a whole slew of actors only recognizable if you’ve been following Italian cinema.
"I told you – don’t call my whores escorts!"
Following two brothers – Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) a sympathetic joker and Matteo (Alessio Boni), the more brooding and intense of the pair, The Best of Youth has their lives intersect through some of Italy’s more modern history, as told from 1966 through 2000. It’s a lot of ground to cover, hence the massive running time. The multi-generational story starts off with a journey of sorts, which Matteo on his path becoming a Police Officer and Nicola gravitating towards the hapless romanticism in clinical Psychiatry, continuing through such tumultuous events as the flooding of Florence, the Turin ’74 Riots, Fiat firing 23,000 employees, and through the various political upheavals of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. Essentially The Best of Youth spares no moment because it doesn’t have to, and the results are nothing short of bulging, but in a good way since I didn’t have to check out your package.
There are no extras anywhere on the disc, which is spread out as the film was released theatrically: separated in two 3+ hour parts (as an aside – I really enjoyed the disc’s color scheme, day and night). While some might gripe that a trailer or a commentary track would be standard for any DVD nowadays, The Best of Youth isn’t really remotely like anything you’ve seen before, especially with its running time, emotional resonance, and gigantic themes at play. Visually and aurally, the disc is fairly well balanced, the nearly spotless transfer complimenting the film’s Dolby 2.0 Italian language track. Sounds are crisp and clear – especially during one scene where Nicola’s wife meets with a man of questionable morals towards Italy’s future. The English subtitles easy to follow. Its visuals are softer at times, but I believe that’s how it looked during its initial theatrical run.
"You know, I think I’ll be happier over here with the Flannels…"
Originally intended for Italian Television stations, the intense Best of Youth explodes onto our American market after sitting on a Miramax shelf for quite some time. Understandable, considering it begs the question – how do you market a massive interior epic about 35+ years in an Italian family’s life? and how do you make it accessible for the American public who would have to pay to see the film in two parts? It’s not an easy call, although here, I’m ecstatic to say just being able to watch the film at all is a miracle enough.
Director Marco Tullio Giordana’s ambitious undertaking punctuates the fragile bonds between brothers, family, and life, all with equal footing and a massive influx on character development. Frankly, the hours have their share of ups and downs and there are moments when you can really feel the weight of what you’ve set yourself down to watch, narratively-speaking. Still, when Best of Youth finds its niche you find yourself being drawn into the Carati family. It really succeeds across its relatively inward spectrum. It’s an interior epic dealing with not only historical events, but also how life breaks its daily bread throughout the lives of Nicola (essentially, it’s his story) and the turmoil behind Matteo’s personal demons. As such, there is passion and emotion lurking behind the frames – something lacking from a lot of today’s filmmaking. You just don’t see raw human emotion spilled out across your screen in these uncertain times. It’s the fake-real deal (the actors are simply stunning. Any lavish words I can muster up would be inadequate).
I might be a little ahead of myself, but The Best of Youth is arguably one of the finest ensemble foreign dramas ever produced and although it was a hell of a slog to get through (committing yourself is a task in itself) I can honestly say it’s a damn fine film. Not a masterpiece, but a spectacular achievement that transfixes you with its impressively low-key style. There are no explosions (other than ones of the heart and of emotion). There is little CGI (other than some simplistic outside-of-the-car riding shots). There is little-to-no reference of the Mafia, although Communism does have its day in the 70’s and 80’s. There is a sense of weighty developments, and they mostly all pay off one-by-one. Call me insane, but I honestly thought the movie ends rather abruptly, considering I’d been filmically involved with the Carati family and for as many years as it all plays out, I wanted to make sure it all turned out well. But such is the near-genius of the filmmaking on display here. They give you a lot by showing so little visually and do it so amazingly thorough. The Best of Youth works. Well.
See it if you can stomach the time, for its rewards are justifiable.