The Best of Youth (2003)
Spanning four decades, from the chaotic 1960s to the present, director Marco Tullio Giordana's passionate epic 'La Meglio Gioventu' follows two Italian brothers through some of the most tumultuous events of recent Italian history.
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Be happy for its length---I liked this so well that my first reaction after having watched it was to go back and watch it again. And that is what I did. As with most any good movie, a second viewing is more rewarding than the first, particularly if reading subtitles has been required.It has been a long time since the heydays of Fellini, Bertolucci, or Antonioni, so it's good to see a quality Italian film come out that has international appeal. The ambitious scope of this film, covering the lives of a family from 1966 to 2003, well justifies its six hour length. The story concentrates on two brothers, Nicola and Matteo, who take quite different paths, with Nicola becoming a psychiatrist and Matteo a cop. In addition to the brothers we get to know their parents, siblings (two female), lovers, friends, and children. The number of characters is balanced, not too many to be confusing but enough to make things interesting.Director Giordana definitely has the eye of an artist. The movie is masterfully filmed throughout, and some scenes are so beautifully shot that you can only respond with a sense of awe. Consider the scenes that have Nicola wandering through a natural history museum with his daughter. The editing is flawless and the tracking shot from a distance that interposes various animals as the two walk along is brilliant. Or take the scene where Nicola is at the photography exhibit with large photos mounted on stands throughout the hall. This is where having the luxury of a relaxed time constraint pays off. Nicola wanders among the photos for some time before finding the one he is looking for. The mood of that scene makes us as anxious to find the sought after photo as Nicola is.I thought all the actors were effective and was particularly impressed with Sonia Bergamasco who plays Nicola's significant other Giulia. Camilla Filippi, who plays Nicola's daughter Sara as an adult, is most appealing. And it doesn't hurt that all of the young actors are physically attractive.The story is told in a linear fashion and it moves along seamlessly, which is a testament to the editing. I am sure that inter-cutting the lives of the various characters while supplying a backdrop of historical events was not easy. I particularly appreciated this as a counterpoint to the disjointed time sequencing and jump cuts adopted by so many current movies. I learned a good deal of recent Italian history from this movie, but the emphasis was always on the characters. The point is well made as to how much our lives are shaped by the larger social events of the time. I never understood before how turbulent things were in Italy during the time frame of this movie.I liked how many of the characters remained enigmatic. What prompted Giulia to become a member of the revolutionary Red Brigades, at the sacrifice of her family? Matteo is so complex and conflicted that I never figured him out. He could be sensitive but also subject to fits of anger. The only consistency in Matteo was his love for his brother, even though they were sometimes at odds. Matteo was prone to self-inflicted wounds--on a visit to Rome he sees his parents as he drives by them, but he does not stop; he makes a date with a girl but shows up only to follow her secretly in his car as she finally walks away. For all of Nicola's skills as a psychiatrist, in the end it is seen that he did not quite understand his brother either. This movie does not dazzle you with technique but rather seduces you into becoming involved with its story and its characters. Who can argue with a technique that accomplishes that?
When Italy offers something to be proud of!---As I was about to write my review, I was very positively surprised at seeing the wide, and I would say worldwide success of this awesome Italian "movie": reviewers from all over Europe and across the ocean prove that when a product is intelligently-crafted it is able to cross borders, even though it's deeply rooted in Italian history and could sound a little unfamiliar to a foreign audience. Most comments consist, indeed, of positive words of praise in favour of this movie: emotionally engaging, never boring, despite the long time-run, authentic, genuine, poetic, finely characterised, wonderfully acted, sober, delicate, sensitive, intelligent, never banal, captivating, enjoyable at every age: simply great. I agree with all the qualities outlined by the users' reviews, and just add a great merit: the total lack of any political line-up, in a movie where great political events and dramas of Italian history are displayed. Faults and merits are just to be seen, everyone may form his/her opinion, but Giordana never falls into the temptation to make any propaganda or engage any political controversy. As an Italian, and living in a country where nowadays every aspect of one's life is object of political assessment, as if politics were the only criterion of one's behaviour, I appreciate this political non-commitment (not in the sense of indifference, of course, but of sterile factiousness) as a comforting and rare quality. Everything, even tragic events with deep social wounds, is displayed with such delicacy, everything gets such an intimate and human dimension, that the movie can really reach a universal impact. For me, The Best of Youth is one of those movies you can never leave, I bought the DVD, which I keep jealously and lend only to deserving true friends. It's a sort of sweet companion, which never disappoints, it's so loaded with sound feelings and humanity that it is a sort of drug I take when I feel down, and recovering is granted!
Long and Wonderful---No, the number of minutes is no typo. This film is over six and a half hours long. But as Roger Ebert says, "I dropped outside of time and was carried along by the narrative flow; when the film was over, I had no particular desire to leave the theater, and would happily have stayed another three hours." Of course, I was watching in the comfort of my home but I agree completely with Mr. Ebert.The narrative covers the years 1966 through 2003 and focuses primarily upon the older brother of a middle class Italian family. As it begins, the two brothers of the family are ready to pursue college education as an avenue to successful careers. The younger of them is volunteering at a local mental facility as a walker - a companion for patients who need to explore the world outside the institution. He finds that the girl he accompanies is being mistreated and more or less kidnaps her in an attempt to return her to her father's home. In this effort he seeks the help of his brother and the two embark upon an idealistic quest to return the girl to the love and safety of her home. The unhappy result of their venture changes the outlooks of both and sets them on paths which diverge from their original plans. Each chooses a new course which is in conflict with his basic personality. The older brother, who had been practical in all of his previous projects, finds himself diving into an alternative culture, whereas the younger, who had been more footloose, joins the military and eventually becomes a policeman. The encounters of both during the almost forty year span of the film gives us many insightful "what ifs" of two lives and reminds us of the enormous effect sheer chance has upon each of us.If you are familiar with the Italian political climate and events during the era of this film, your enjoyment will be heightened , but even someone as politically innocent as I had no trouble understanding the conflicts of the major characters that come from diverging ideologies. (I can probably be pretty much assured that if you are a HSC "regular" you are well versed in the politics of Italy in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.) This film has a great "feel" to it in that it doesn't fall into the trap of being overly melodramatic, which is often the bent of films that span long periods of time. I was left with a good feeling at the end but it arose from having viewed the triumphs and tragedies of a very believable family, a family whose members change and grow as a result of their experience of life just as happens in all families no matter their geographic location.As for geographic location, the viewer of this film is treated to many memorable scenes of Italy from the grit of the city to the blissful pleasures of the islands. The experience is one of a resident of the country rather than a tourist who only has privy to a gossamer view.If you enjoy excellent film-making and a good story, I have no doubt that you will also be "carried along by the narrative flow" just as Mr. Ebert and I can guarantee you that you will enjoy the ride.
emotions in motion---This movie is splendid. It tells the story of lives, basically. The ups and down of a family. It could be the story of my life, or it could be of yours.The action takes place in Italy, and the movie goes side by side with its protagonists. In six hours, it tells the story of their lives. An involving, mesmerizing and "real" story. Not softened, it actually looks real.The action is very well fitted into some of Italy most important events, and the characters have connection with it all, somehow. I admire the script, the labyrinthic action, which is not confusing at all, but is perfectly mixed together. The puzzle, once completed, is beautiful. Like someone said in the movie: "Everything is beautiful".It has a great cinematography, but pretty discrete. Our eyes and attention are focused on the plot, and not on fantastic camera movements, or a "music video" type editing.It's a sober, and excellent movie. One that sticked to my head, like no one did a "long" time ago.And don't get fooled by it's length. You'll dive into the screen, and time just seems to fly. Really.Don't miss it.
Perfezione---It's 1AM on a weekday, and more than a year after watching this movie for the third time, I'm still haunted by it, like an overwhelming memory that won't fade. I think I know what it is: it is all the profound humanity that this film projects, in its pure, real, obtainable form, through its different stories, its passions, its formidable characters - especially the one of Nicola, whom it is so easy to love and identify with.Such a film is a bowl of fresh air, especially for all of us idealists who start to believe the world has turned into a giant cynical machine. The success of this movie is a proof that we haven't forgotten our emotions yet.Out of all the films that I've watched (and I'm a big cinephile), this one stands out as the one that affected me the most, in terms of emotional value. Out of nowhere I'll just start thinking about it and start crying and laughing and celebrating human life. Sounds corny, I know... I'll probably never get over it, just as I'll never get over the Rach 3 or Neruda's poetry or a Patagonian morning.It's 1.10AM on a weekday, I can't resist a 4th screening...