Youth – DVD and Blu-Ray Review

As our actors and directors grow old, it’s only natural to see a surge in movies catered to the youthfully challenged. My Old Lady, A Walk In The Woods, The Second Best Marigold Hotel – these all capture the sense of keeping our youth whist still confronting our age as it rolls away with time.

In a more artistic manner, Youth tackles the subject of aging with an utter compelling nature.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, Youth sees Michael Caine as Fred, a retired composer on vacation with his best friend Mick (played by Harvey Keitel) – a director and screenwriter. The pair navigate the resort which is populated by famous people and artists. Although Mick is trying to finish his last film project, Fred has no interest in composing again, having slipped into a sense of apathy and resignation to his fate since the loss of his wife, much to the chagrin of his daughter and assistant Lena. When Fred is invited to perform his most acclaimed work Simple Songs for The Queen, he is forced to contemplate the life he has led and the one he is living…

Sorrentino’s work is a charming and eloquent opus on the fading of time and talent. Spiced with themes of artistry conflicting with life, Youth is an ensnaring composition on the withering of time. The philosophies present are captured masterfully by the stirring performances by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel who feed off one another in mutual respect and defined, revered presence. To be honest, Keitel plays a rather…well… Keitel character just as a character this time and though his dialogue is poetic, it is helped by the chemistry he has with Caine.

Caine’s introspective Fred balances a refined personality with the broiling conflict underneath his somewhat solitary. Using surreal imagery, Sorrentino explores his lead character’s suffering and conflict, allowing the evocative dreamlike projection of his insecurities to redolently explore the screen. With Caine’s talent quietly flourishing the film that relies on picturesque metaphors to enhance the character’s inner turmoil, Youth stirs a mass of visceral excitements.

Against Keitel and Caine, there are a series of young actors who add another level of finesse to Youth. Rachel Weisz is always at her best when tackling the themes and surreal nature of an independent film (you should all go watch The Lobster now) and in Sorrentino’s work, she offers no less. Her work as Lena transcends and in one particular scene, her breakdown is gripping and sensationally so. Paul Dano, a young actor who deserves a multitude of praise for his recent performances, is also equally brilliant and offers a further exploratory thread for Fred and Mike to journey down as a famous actor trying to work out his next project.

Youth definitely lingers exquisitely within the narrative. The concerto of age, art, and love is soulful as it conducts beautiful melodious explorations of growing old. The flickering images, whether overwrought or small, still flow long after viewing. Brooding with musical emotion, weighted in the score by David Lang, Sorrentino’s sublime imaginings and story come together in a sentimental film that doesn’t overbear. Youth is an arthouse answer to the invigorating The Best Marigold Hotel and therefore lacking in the rambunctious nature of the latter. However, there are enough themes here to enjoy Sorrentino’s work in all its aching beauty.


The Club (El Club) – DVD and Blu-Ray Review

The Catholic Church has been under fire for decades since scandals have been unearthed and more victims of abuse have felt able to come forward. Unfortunately and fairly insultingly, many references made in the past by TV and Film have been fairly tongue in cheek; and we can all admit to knowing some tasteless jokes. It is only in recent years that mainstream media has been brave enough to tackle this issue on a serious note. Most recently, and notably, we have Spotlight – winner of two Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay) and praised by Vatican Radio for being ‘honest’ and ‘compelling’. A huge achievement that shows that the public and The Church itself are ready to acknowledge the crimes committed therein.

The Club (El Club), although in essence looking at the same subject, takes things from a different perspective. Instead of outsiders looking in, appalled by what they find, we are very much a part of the inner circle here. By dropping us amongst perceived monsters, award winning and universally acclaimed director, Pablo Larrain, forces a long hard look at the crimes that took place and the guilt/denial that followed as a result. An incredibly complex piece where the only likeable character is a dog

(SPOILER ALERT: The dog gets killed. Several dogs get killed in fact. It’s awful and made me cry. If, like me, you care more about animals than people, I recommend skipping that part. Pretend all the dogs went on holiday or something. La la la I’m not listening la la)

The titular feature of the film, is in reference to something far more sinister than it sounds. Set in a Chilean seaside town, we find the home of four disgraced priests and their housekeeper/prison warden Sister Monica. Each has been exiled for a different crime, and each is expected to pay penance in this isolation. Evidently this is not the case. When a new member is introduced to ‘The Club’, however, he brings with him an uninvited guest – a past victim of molestation who is clearly still deeply affected by the graphic abuse. Unable to face the ghost from his past and the sight of his future, the newest club member commits suicide and silence returns to the coastal home. This brief and violent encounter, however, sparks an investigation by a clerical counsellor, who threatens the way of life these five have become accustomed too. And so a new cover up is implemented in an effort to cover up the first cover up. Needless to say, this does not end well.

Lerrain holds the Catholic Church under the microscope and up to the light, revealing the dirt and the grime in this artistically dark piece. The visuals are often set against natural light, which poignantly illustrates the place these men hold in society. The acting is formidable, which explains why most of the cast have been used by Larrain before. One even gets this close to convincing you that child snatching is OK in certain circumstances, highlighting that some criminals will always feel able to justify their actions and guilt is a non-factor here. This revelation is probably the most brutal as Lerrain seems to be suggesting that, even in a religion that preaches penance and forgiveness, some leaders will remain fundamentally flawed monsters incapable of recognising their crimes. What is perhaps more distressing is that the victim of abuse seems incapable of coming the terms with it. His suffering, his graphic recall of the crime, and his mental anguish are evident throughout the film. By the end, there is no hope left in this little seaside town.

A powerful attack, which is masterfully shot and well written. You wont enjoy it, but I don’t think that’s the point.