Archive for the ‘DIRECTED BY: Paolo Sorrentino’ Category


23 Dec

Youth – directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Drama. 124 minutes Color 2015.


The Story: Two old artists recuperate at a fancy Alpine hotel as their pasts and futures converge on them.


You wonder momentarily under what circumstances Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel could have become boyhood best friends, but the common ground is, of course, that both are walking slums. Caine has risen to great heights as a conductor and composer, but he is retired and now refuses to conduct a composition of his before The Queen. Keitel is in retreat with his screenwriters to finish his latest script. They are both in their late 70s, and what the film is about is less its story, which has its suspense, than what old age is like for each of them.

It’s not bad. It’s not what you thought it might be – which is to say that fleeting memory is not looked upon as a defect or loss, but as an advantage which offers to them a wider horizon for living life itself. Life itself, lived, with that horizon filled with nothing but itself. Not dismay. Not fear of death. Not major discomfort. Not regret or remorse or nostalgia for what has departed. But simply space.

I have never seen the matter of age presented in this way, and I, as an 82 year old, welcome the painting of a recognizable landscape. Dignity does not consist in resignation, or bearing-up. It consists of looking reality in the face with shrewdness and humor. And this takes a relish in a slower pace, which this film affords, and a willingness to forgo colors one no longer can relish and to enjoy colors one never expected existed.

The aim of certain scenes does not hit their target, such as the parade of Keitel’s screen heroines on a hillside. But many stern and stunning scenes hold my respect for their novelty, daring, beauty. We are given a good long time to contemplate here, which is what being 82 gives you. Editing does not rush us by. Things can register.

Youth’s story is told with a quirky idiosyncrasy easy to get used to. Jane Fonda has three terrific scenes, one with Keitel, one going nuts in an airplane, and one as a peasant woman holding a basket. Rachel Weisz is particularly fine in a long monologue. Paul Dano is just right as an abused movie star. Luca Bigazzi filmed it beautifully. And the concert at the end is certainly worth waiting for.

The director also directed The Great Beauty, which won the 2014 Oscar for the Best Foreign Film.


The Great Beauty

05 Aug

The Great Beauty – directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Personal Drama. 137 minutes Color 2014.


The Story: A once successful novelist faces the truth of his life and habits now in high middle age.


What we have here – and it’s best to say it at the outset – is a big international film talent, of the sort no longer arising but once prevalent in the work of Truffaut, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Ray. We are operating here in the territory, if not quite on the level, of Jean Renoir. Because the values Sorrentino is regarding with his tale and his camera are unprejudicely human. The film won the Oscar of 2014 for The Best Foreign Film.

The text is Tolstoian, of course. It poses the question Tolstoi poses in The Death Of Ivan Ilytch, which is: “What are you doing with your life?”

Toni Servillo is the actor appearing in virtually every scene. He has the perfect touch for this character, who skims along lightly in life. He is an author who has never written a second book. His daily and nightly habits of sex and society have so preoccupied him that he has even forgotten a sense obligation to actually write a second novel – and now he is 65.

The final resolution of this situation does not convince me. For art is not a trick. It is a craft. If that’s what he means by a trick, fine, but that’s not what he says. What he says is that it is a trick, meaning a low calling, a scam. Whereas art is neither a low calling nor a high calling, for all who are called to it are called the same. Only their talents for it vary. There is nothing contemptible in or about any of it. All art is quite useful – to those who make it.

So the question of his writing again becomes specious. One does not believe it.

For me it is important that one does not believe it, because if he gave up writing, we have wasted our time on him, and if he resumes his writing, we have also wasted our time, because we have been served up the dessert of a happy ending to a story which demands differently.

What the story demands is what it delivers all along, which is a series of episodes in a life which is characterized in its shallowness by being lived episodically. So the style of the film accords perfectly with the style of the protagonist.

The episodes are brilliant in their choice and execution, so brilliant one can see easily that he could not have been seduced away from his work by anything less brilliant.

One after another they emerge before our eyes and his: the sudden death of The Observer; the vulgar violence of middle-aged hippies dancing their lives and the night away; Rome’s palaces in midnight trespass; wild animals in The Coliseum; death of the young; sorrow at early love failed; the scathing of a pretentious liberal. One scene after another looms before us with telling force and imagination. The religious world of Vatican Rome in which an ancient saintly nun crawls toward God; the screwing of a sweet young thing by a sweet young priest; the gaze of a novice out through the bars of her convent at a world she is missing.

So there is no difference between the sacred and profane here. All melds.

All constructs itself to remount the question of how one is living one’s life.

I highly recommend the film. It is a film of great narrative latitude. This gives it leisure for suspense and a welcome to one’s speculation. And to get to know a character as he discovers his sides are too few.

To regard one’s life not from the point of view of its great events but from the point of view of the petty human habits that bring it down is to educate oneself to one’s own daily stuff.

Rent it. It’s lavish. It’s unexpected. It is not profound except that to see it causes profundity in those who do.

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Posted in DIRECTED BY: Paolo Sorrentino

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