Youth Without Youth (R)

Romance 124 December 14, 2007
By J.hoberman
Francis Ford Coppola's self-financed return to the fray is a curious project — well-crafted, personal, and movie-movie old-fashioned even in its vanguard aspirations. Simply put, it's a Faustian romance about the reversal of time and the transmigration of souls. Shot mainly in Romania, it adds a soupçon of Balkan chic and anti-Nazi iconography to its rich stew of twaddle. Dominic Matei (Tim Roth) is an aging professor of linguistics and a self-described failure. It's Easter 1938. Dominic is actually planning to kill himself when he is struck by lightning. He suffers massive burns, yet his hair grows back luxuriantly and his rotting teeth are replaced by new ones. Inexplicably younger and smarter, the old linguist is about to have his second chance. His doctor (Bruno Ganz) ponders not only this unique medical case but also the international situation: "France is abandoning us to the Nazis." Soon, Romanian secret police are after Dominic, and so are the Nazis. Once it becomes known that Hitler himself is interested in "the most valuable human specimen today," Dominic is spirited to neutral Switzerland, where an uncredited Matt Damon materializes as a helpful American agent. Second childhood or old man's folly? Coppola has made more than his share of bombastic melodramas. But for all its fussy lighting, upside-down camera angles, and overwrought impressionism, Youth Without Youth is essentially playful.
Francis Ford Coppola Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, André Hennicke, Marcel Iures, Adrian Pintea, Alexandra Pirici, Florin Piersic Jr., Zoltan Butuc, Adriana Titieni Francis Ford Coppola, Mircea Eliade Francis Ford Coppola Sony Pictures Classics

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