Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 16 News List

This young life lasts a long time

Although 'The Best of Youth' is long, its content keeps viewers interested

By Mark Kermode and Peter Bradshaw  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Taken from a television series, The Best of Youth tells a complex tale simply.


The Best of Youth was a groundbreaking Italian TV mini-series which found its way into cinemas after garnering plaudits at Cannes. Certainly, there's much to be impressed by in this tale of two brothers, Nicola and Matteo, whose divergent life paths take them on oppositional but intersecting journeys through recent Italian history.

This colossal Italian epic from Marco Tullio Giordana, presented in two parts, is slightly longer than six hours, and yet the time really does whizz by.

Transferred from video to film, this story of two brothers is direct and uncomplicated, with intimate, heartfelt performances, particularly from Italian star Luigi Lo Cascio.

It's a sanguine drama in the tradition of Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers or the early, Italianate movies of Scorsese and Coppola -- though played in a lighter, soapier style.

Taking its title from a collection of poetry by Pasolini, The Best of Youth fluctuates between insightful social observation and soap-operatic contrivance. Other than sheer prestige value, it's hard to see what's gained by foisting this exemplary TV fare on to cinema screens where the processed Super-16 visuals look oddly degraded (despite Roberto Forza's very handsome framing).

Lo Cascio and Alessio Boni play Nicola and Matteo, two idealistic young students in 1960s Rome. Matteo is a volunteer at a mental hospital and with Nicola's help hatches a disastrous plan to free a young patient, Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca, from Nanni Moretti's The Son's Room), whom he suspects is enduring electro-shock treatment. But Giorgia -- with whom Matteo is more than a little in love -- is recaptured and the plan's failure colors the rest of their lives.

Film Notes:

The Best of Youth

Directed by: Marco Tullio Giordana

Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio (Nicola Carati), Alessio Boni (Matteo Carati), Adriana Asti (Adriana Carati), Sonia Bergamasco (Giulia Monfalco), Fabrizio Gifuni (Carlo Tommasi), Maya Sansa (Mirella Utano), Valentina Carnelutti (Francesca Carati), Jasmine Trinca (Giorgia)

Running time: 366 minutes

Language: Italian with Chinese subtitles

Taiwan Release: Today

While Nicola takes up with Giulia, an artisan whose bohemian aspirations spill over into revolutionary terrorism, Matteo becomes a zealous, secretive policeman, furious in his prosecution of lawlessness.

Angry and humiliated, Matteo grows emotionally cold almost overnight, and becomes a tough cop. Nicola becomes a doctor campaigning for psychiatric patients' rights, and Matteo is deeply ambivalent about Nicola's appropriation of a moral issue that he had failed to make his own. Poor Giorgia is the brothers' bewildered, imprisoned conscience -- and maybe Italy's conscience too. A satisfying and (very) generously proportioned piece of work.

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