Youth Without Youth
Francis Ford Coppola was arguably the greatest of the New Hollywood directors, before losing his way in the 1990s with Jack and The Rainmaker. A decade on and Coppola has returned to the director’s chair with an experimental musing on what it means to get old and find yourself running out of time to fully exploit your work.
Coppola is clearly laying down some demons in a personal work that will be infuriating for anyone looking for popcorn entertainment or those fans of Coppola’s oeuvre that couldn’t give a toss about his private life. Tim Roth, in a performance echoing his turn in Werner Herzog’s 2001 Invincible, plays brilliant linguistics professor Dominic Matei, who, on the eve of World War II is struck by lightning and consequently stops ageing. His doctor (Bruno Ganz) is keen to study him but the Nazis come calling and Dominic escapes to Switzerland. It’s here that the movie becomes plagued by doppelgangers: Dominic dreams up a Faustian double and meets a girl (Alexandra Maria Lara), also recently struck by lighting, who reminds him of his childhood sweetheart.
Coppola’s experiments with montage in the film are more akin to the work of Godard in the late 70s than of the director’s previous work (the sound design of The Conversation excepted). Yet, the director’s decision to jump back and forth between the decades and to use Lara in multiple roles doesn’t help when it comes to following the action. What’s important in the matching of one image against the next is creating an emotional truth, and, while initially engaging, Youth Without Youth doesn’t have sufficient legs to be anything more than an interesting exercise. (Kaleem Aftab)
GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh and selected release, Fri 14–Thu 27 Dec.