Francis Ford Coppola has been quietly touting Youth Without Youth, his first film in a decade, as a return to his independent roots, an experimental project for which he once again became a “student of cinema.” It’s a nice thought, one thematically linked to the film in its evocation of regeneration, as well as a possible self defense for such a foolhardy endeavor — yet for all Coppola’s possibly false modesty, the delightful fact remains that Youth Without Youth could only be the work of a seasoned master. In fact, opaque and challenging though it may be, and even if it was shot cheaply and on the fly in Romania, Coppola’s new film isn’t so unlike many of the director’s other works in terms of its radical visionary charms. Even at his admittedly small moments, Coppola can’t help but think big, and Youth Without Youth is nothing if not an eloquent expression of the director’s grandiose dreams for a philosophy of cinema, inextricable, of course, from time, consciousness, and memory.
One can’t help but wonder, with Mike Newell’s woebegone Love in the Time of Cholera currently disappearing from theaters, what Coppola might be able to do with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s prose: like that author’s work, this film hovers outside of time, while remaining beholden to a maddeningly destructive linearity. Coppola, his longtime editor Walter Murch, and his first-time collaborators, cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., and composer Osvaldo Golijov, expand time and also stay within its fixed boundaries, creating an overwhelming tapestry of images, sounds, and feelings that comes closer to what Raul Ruiz achieved with his ephiphanic Proust retelling Time Regained than anything in recent American cinema.
Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of Youth Without Youth.