I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
This is a supposedly true story. When Michael Caine read his first scene from Jaws: The Revenge, in which he plays Hoagie Newcome, and the scene heading read “EXT. THE BAHAMAS – DAY”, he immediately signed onto do the movie. The man felt he deserved a little break in the Caribbean and felt it was worth being in that abhorrent mess that he himself refuses to see.
My point? This film has Caine’s character, a retired music composer and conductor, spending his annual holiday in a beautiful Swiss hotel and interacting with various hotel guests, with drama ensuing. Let’s hope that visiting Switzerland was not the only good thing that came out of this movie.
According to Caine in some interviews, it was this film’s director, Paolo Sorrentino, who insisted that the now semi-retired veteran actor take this role, threatening to cancel production if he didn’t take part, and Caine, flattered by being singled out by a director he admired from his previous Academy Award Winning film, La Grande Bellezza, and not wanting what looked like an excellent script go to waste, agreed.
So was it worth his time and effort to do a film NOT directed by Christopher Nolan? Well, you’re about to find out.
This movie which reflects on art and the processes of aging is thematically right up my street. The decline of oneself in life’s latter years is something that has terrified and fascinated me for years. I am also a “film critic” and cinephile. These two facts make me sit up when I hear that I’m about to watch a two-hour long film in which nothing much happens except some old people (and some young), many of whom are artists, sitting about and talking about art and being old.
When I say “nothing much happens”, that’s not as true as it is for some independent and artsy films. There is certainly a plot and interesting characters going through their interesting little lives. Yet before going into this movie, you should realise that this is a slow one. It put me in mind of some of Studio Ghibli’s films, which take the concept of Ma (a Japanese word roughly translating as “gap”, recently being used to describe the calm pauses in between the action) and running with it.
So yeah, if you’re one of those people who can’t stand slow, contemplative, artsy sorts of movies, this probably isn’t for you. I hope that does not come across as if I believe such people are beneath me, because I really don’t. Heck, a few hours after watching this movie I saw the utterly brilliant Team American: World Police and the next day I saw Deadpool (review coming soon) so you see, I can be cool and fun too!
When I watch some movies, I am joined by two imaginary friends whom I discuss the movie with afterwards. The one wearing the scarf and long coat said after seeing this movie, “Well, that was certainly a very good looking movie. The cinematography, editing and direction were simply excellent. And –“
At this point, the guy with the Star Wars T-Shirt and jeans to my left interrupted with “Don’t you think it was a bit pretentious”.
And I’m left in the middle trying to decide who I agree with more.
I have to agree that the whole “talking about art and screenwriting and music and aging” thing that I found so endearing at the start of this picture does come across as a little pretentious after a while. I like philosophical sub-text and text as much as the next man, but I feel that this movie lays it on a little thick. One could imagine this movie being subtitled with French actors at certain points and it becoming the epitome of what some see as those “critic-friendly” movies.
On the other hand, the scarf-wearing side of my brain is actually right. This IS a beautiful looking movie, for sure, not just for its setting in lovely Switzerland, but because of excellent craft of that imagery.
The thing that tips me over towards properly liking this movie is my adoration for the acting present here.
I have never seen a better Michael Caine performance in my life. He demands sympathy and respect as a fictional man of music in the twilight of his life. I’m actually a little surprised that he hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar. Those guys at the Academy love to reward actors who play artists. I mean look at The Artist. Ah, it’s probably because he’s playing someone who never really existed.
He is joined by Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda, all giving great performances.
So a mixed bag? Maybe. I’d say I definitely like this movie a lot more than I don’t. I love the imagery and the acting and quite a bit of the themes and writing. And yet I hate some of the pretentiousness that gets drizzled as a garnish.
No matter, what I can say about those aspects, there is one element that is absolutely flawless. It’s soundtrack. I’m no music critic, but I can finally use that old clichéd word “Haunting” as a perfect adjective for the tunes in this film.
You can probably find the music on YouTube. Check it out while reading my other reviews.
Recommended Scenario: If you like long walks in the park, contemplating the big things in life. And Michael Caine.
Final Note: This is unrelated to the quality of this film, so I’ve left it to the end. I have something I’d like to say to Independent Movie Producers.
I know for a fact that making movies is not easy. Particularly when you are running mainly on passion for the project and less on the profitability of a franchise (though of course that can also be hard). And if you are and independent film company, you want to get your name out there.
When films like Youth are made, they often rely on multiple sources of funding, meaning a number of companies. All these companies want to promote their brand.
Thus, they all have 8 or more seconds at the beginning of the movie to show their logos and possibly their theme tune. Then they show their name again in the opening credits of the movie.
My advice to you is this. If you’re going to put up all your logos, please, for the sake of the patience of the audience members, many of whom have been seated patiently since before the pre-show adverts began, put all your logos on the screen simultaneously. Use a big grid layout. Have that shown for 5 seconds and you’re done.
I personally don’t like checking my watch before the movie’s even begun.
Thank you. Keep fighting the studios.