- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

“The Best of Youth,” booked for at least a week at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and scheduled to reappear at the Landmark E Street Cinema in the last half of July, is a six-hour Italian social epic that has generated some esteem since showing at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago.

The brainstorm of screenwriters Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, the ambitious scenario was entrusted to director Marco Tullio Giordana. These three prove superficially intriguing melodramatic escorts for about the equivalent of an ordinary feature. The narrative, which begins in 1966 and tries to last into the new century, seems more or less streamlined at the outset, shifting from one location, crisis and time frame to the next in a crisp and purposeful way.

A fraternal saga that also aspires to reflect about 40 years of turbulent social history, “Youth” revolves around brothers Matteo and Nicola Carati (Alessio Boni and Luigi Lo Cascio, respectively), introduced studying for university exams in Rome. An undercurrent of instability is attributed to Matteo, who blows off his literature orals when he becomes fixated on a schizophrenic young woman, Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca), a patient at a mental asylum called Villa Quieta.

Matteo takes the liberty of springing her, which disrupts a post-graduate excursion with Nicola and other school friends. Ultimately, Nicola becomes sufficiently curious about Giorgia’s state of mind to become a psychiatrist. Also inclined to love not wisely but too well, he marries a math and piano prodigy from Turin, Sonia Bergamasco’s Giulia, who spends the 1970s as a terrorist with the Red Brigades, leaving Nicola to raise their daughter, Sara.

It becomes easier to differentiate the brothers once Nicola acquires a beard and Matteo a hard-bitten visage that suggests Jean-Claude Van Damme in the latter phase of his starring career. By that time, Matteo is also a police officer who has seen and sometimes dished out more violence than appears good for the soul of a former literature major.

The overarching concept is equivocal at best: The idealistic impulses of the 1960s were commendable but all too easily vulnerable to human corruption and fallibility. It’s pretty clear that the movie is steering into ponderous straits by hour No. 3; the last half of the story trades expectation for resignation. The soundtrack may be worth tracking down since the movie is saturated with evocative pop tunes, both European and American.

* 1/2

TITLE: “The Best of Youth”

RATING: R (Occasional graphic violence, profanity and sexual candor)

CREDITS: Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana. Screenplay by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli. Cinematography by Roberto Forza. Production design by Franco Ceraolo. Costume design by Elisabetta Montaldo. In Italian with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 358 minutes

WEB SITE: www.miramax.com/the

bestofyouth

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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