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DIRECTED BY: Francis Ford Coppola
PLOT: In 1938 Bucharest, 70-year-old Dominic Matei is struck by lightning, becomes decades younger and develops psychic powers.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Every now and then, Francis Ford Coppola gets to make a movie his way, unconstrained by the demands of capitalism or the limitations of collaboration. Think of the studio-destroying One From the Heart, the self-indulgently autobiographical Tucker: The Man and His Dream, or the demented epic Apocalypse Now. With big ideas, gloriously pretentious dialogue, radical shifts in tone, and a determination to Speak His Truth, Youth Without Youth is cut from a similar cloth: pure Coppola, raw and unfiltered.
COMMENTS: Francis Ford Coppola is currently in post-production on what he says will be the capstone to his career, a final epic called Megalopolis. He has cashed in his winemaking fortune to produce the film with a nine-figure budget and own it outright. He enlisted an all-star cast to bring his script, which has been camera-ready for years, to life. Beyond the vaguest of plot descriptions, little is yet known about the work that could be the great filmmaker’s final cinematic statement. But I have some suspicions about what to expect from Megalopolis. Because, you see, I’ve watched Youth Without Youth.
After the old-style credits with sweeping theme, we meet Dominic, who is old, hopeless, and suicidal. His book about the origin of human language will never be finished, his dreams are plagued by memories of Laura, the woman who pushed him away because he gave more attention to his intellectual passions than to her, and the world is rushing towards cataclysm. It’s pure happenstance that a final trip back to Bucharest leads to his fateful encounter with a bolt of lightning. (Some wild dialogue suggests divine intervention, but Coppola’s not down for anything as mundane as that.)
Once he’s hospitalized, it takes a while to get back to Dominic, because the movie is intensely interested in the accident itself: the strange process of re-growth, complete with new teeth. The snarky hospital attendants. The tedium of confirming his true identity and crafting a new one. That’s part of Youth Without Youth’s methodology. It’s not metaphorical, symbolic, or satirical. Coppola really is interested in the fundamentals of what would happen to this guy who was hit by lightning and made 30 years younger.
Roughly halfway through the film, Youth Without Youth begins to resemble nothing so much as a superhero origin story, with Dominic using his powers to escape the Nazis’ designs on the ability to extend life. It’s almost comically literal; we suspect a woman staying at the clinic might have ulterior motives once we see that she has a Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH (2007)