Saturday, December 22, 2007

Coppola and His Experiment with Consciousness

December 21st, 2007 Francis Ford Coppola attended a screening of his new film Youth Without Youth at the Landmark theater in Los Angeles. I was in attendance for a memory of meeting a legend of yore. Sure he has seen better days and made better films. I am actually not all that familiar with his body of work besides the Godfather series, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, and his work in the 90's that was propelled by his debt. His presence will be etched in the back of my mind for years to come, especially the scarf. Sometimes I think artists only wear those things, anyways it is displaying his ability to follow the label of artist.

Youth Without Youth is a film that deals with man's consciousness and ability to construct reality. Most of the film follows a linear fashion, but Coppola plays with it to demonstrate the dynamic nature of Eastern Philosophy, which believes that life is a cycle not two extremes like the West believes. He probes the very nature of reality in this somewhat garbled narrative. Coppola still knows how to create beautiful images on the screen. I don't think I was visually bored at any moment of the film. Romania has never looked so beautiful or tragic. But the story lacks excitement and vigor that most movies have. You question the ties between the three act of the film.

Filled with mostly foreign or indie stars, it does contain the two impressive names of Tim Roth (Dominic) and Bruno Ganz (see the German film Downfall). Although he is only in the first act, Bruno Ganz plays the role of the doctor that treats Tim Roth's character after he is youthed by being struck by lightning, hence the name. Dominic changes from an 80 year old to being a man in his 30's. Yes, I know it seems a stretch, but its a movie! This portion is the most thriller-like of all of the three acts, I would also say that this is the most enjoyable portion of the film. Dominic spends his time running from the Nazi scientist who wanted to use him as a human guinea pig.

After a brief escape from the Nazi, he holds up in Switzerland and begins to recount his life and write about what he feels to aid the Professor in his understanding of how and what happened to Dominic. The ties are severed with the death of the professor, he is then propositioned by the CIA by a brief cameo with Matt Damon. This is where I stopped having interest. Each scene drifts into the next with no real clarity, much like the exploration of consciousness. Also using mirrors as a motif, Coppola manipulates the reflected Dominic to express his inner dialogue. Dom then in his boredom, and ours, dives into the origin of language.

Another person is struck with lightning, which Roth calculates (using his infinite wealth of knowledge). The effect that the lightning has on her aids Dominic's life's work which is to find the origin of language. He uses her to decipher and dive into the depths, but he begins to question his motives and decides to spare her for his life's works. At this point his life wraps around itself and he is old again... almost like the film is merely a dream. Overall, I came away with the feeling that I just saw something of an unfinished work. Coppola has lost his touch having not directed a film in over ten years. Hopefully his next will dive into a more interesting and accessible subject and shoot it in a fashion that is more coherent.