Francis Ford Coppola's first directorial effort since 1997's "The Rainmaker", "Youth Without Youth" is a flawed, but still occasionally interesting effort from the legendary filmmaker. Those who have built up expectations for Ford Coppola's first effort in a long time may come away disappointed, but I found it a mildly engaging period fantasy.
The WWII-era picture focuses on Dominic (Tim Roth), a 70-year-old who starts the movie with the belief that he will end his life utterly alone and unable to finish his work. With this knowledge, he decides to bring about his end. However, while walking through the streets shortly after, a storm comes and he gets deep fried by a lightning bolt.
Bandaged up in the hospital, he initially looks to be in horrendous shape, but when the doctors take off the bandages weeks later, they find out that he appears to have turned back the clock - literally - to the point where he is now in his late thirties, maybe fourty at most. Despite Dominic's desire for secrecy, he gets just the opposite. Additionally, his newfound youth eventually gains the attention of the Nazis, who want to study him for their own gain. The initially compelling concept does start to go overboard, as Dominic starts to find his sudden youth comes with additional powers.
No expense seems to have been spared for the look of the film, as "Youth Without Youth" is one magnificent location after another and production design, cinematography and other tech credits are stellar. Enjoy the story or not, one can't argue that this isn't an absolutely gorgeous film. However, while it's easy to appreciate the film's great looks, Ford Coppola does give the audience a fair amount of time to do so, as the picture's dry approach and rather serious tone does make the picture drag a little at times.
While the story and tone were rather uneven, I thought the performances were impressive. Roth is the center of the picture and it's a difficult part. However, Roth's portrayal of a suffering man in deep sorrow suddenly faced with an extended lease on life is a powerful effort. Alexandra Maria Lara is also good as the woman who was the love of Dominic's life and Bruno Ganz turns in a fine supporting effort as Dominic's doctor.
"Youth Without Youth" in no way represents anything resembling one of Coppola's better efforts, but it is a mildly experimental, unusual film from the director that, despite slow stretches that wander, still holds the attention thanks to fine performances.
VIDEO: "Youth Without Youth" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a visually beautiful film and it gets an equally lovely presentation on DVD. Sharpness and detail are terrific, as the picture appeared crisp and detailed at all times, allowing one to appreciate even the smaller elements of the production design, costumes, set decoration and more.
The presentation remained free of edge enhancement, artifacting or print flaws. The film's rich color palette looked warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level remained solid, as well. This is one of the stronger DVD presentations I've seen recently.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is perfectly fine, providing a pleasing amount of surround use for ambience and reinforcement of the film's score. Audio quality was quite good, as music seemed rich and warm, while speech remained crisp and natural.
EXTRAS: Director Francis Ford Coppola offers an audio commentary for the film, discussing his attraction to the material, shooting on location, working with the actors, the look of the film and the story. Overall, this isn't one of the director's best commentaries - he's offered some truly fantastic ones - but it's worth a listen. We also get a "making of" featurette, "The Music of Youth Without Youth" featurette and "Youth without Youth: The Makeup".
Final Thoughts:"Youth Without Youth" in no way represents anything resembling one of Coppola's better efforts, but it is a mildly experimental, unusual film from the director that, despite slow stretches that wander, still holds the attention thanks to fine performances. The DVD boasts striking image quality and fine audio, as well as some good supplemental features. A recommended rental.
The Film B-