MCN Columnists
Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Youth Without Youth

Francis Ford Coppola’s lovely intellectual comic book fantasy, Youth without Youth, is presented as a captivating DVD release by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. To begin with, the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is fantastic. Its hyper-dimensionality and directional effects significantly enhance a viewer’s involvement with the film’s atmosphere and environment. The sound is then supported by Mihai Malaimare, Jr.’s luscious cinematography, which is effectively transferred in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 payback. Coppola has made a couple of pedestrian films during the course of his career, but the picture and sound onYouth without Youth are just too tantalizing to fail the narrative. Tim Roth portrays an elderly college professor who is made immortal, and younger, when he is struck by lightening. He obtains other powers as well, which he uses to his advantage, until he meets a woman who has also been zapped. Set in Europe and elsewhere around the world, the film begins in the late Thirties and advances several decades over the course of its 125 minutes (the film’s end credits, running 4 minutes, are offered as a separate menu selection), contemplating reincarnation, schizophrenia and many other human contradictions. From the upside-down camera angles and leisurely pace to the abstract premise and episodic plot, it is understandable that the film did not seize the imaginations of moviegoers the way in which Coppola’s more popular films have, but if you just accept the story on its own terms, its exploration becomes one of those journeys where the destination is much less important than the exquisite luxury of the ride.

There is an alternate French track in 5.1 Dolby and optional English and French subtitles. A passable 9-minute production featurette is accompanied by a more comprehensive 18-minute piece about the movie’s makeup effects and an insightful 27-minute segment about the music (sound designer Walter Murch: “Music is most valuable when it tells the audience how to channel an emotion that the film has already evoked, which is different than the other way of working where you use the music to evoke the emotion itself. And music is very good at that. It’s like a drug, like injecting steroids into a muscle. It can do it. If you put on an emotional piece of music and put it up with the film, it will make people feel emotion, but it creates a dependency on the music to create an emotion, so they’re waiting for the music to tell them what emotion to feel. Whereas what’s much better is if the film, which is to say the story and the characters and the ambience and the photography and the everything, creates an emotion, and then, at the right moment, the music comes in and says, ‘Here’s how to channel that emotion. This is what pocket to put that emotion in.'”).

Coppola provides a rewarding commentary (supported by its own optional subtitling) for the film, explaining his approaches to the story and what the story means to him, going over the history of the production and his experiences shooting in Romania, dissecting his own filmmaking choices, and sharing his directing strategies. “There are a number of dreams in the movie. Because I had underlined in the story, all the dreams with a kind of purple pen, I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how I’ll show it’s a dream. I’ll tint it purple or make it wavy and weird as dreams are.’ And then I thought to myself, ‘You know, dreams aren’t purple, and they’re not wavy and weird. Dreams are very realistic. In fact, at the time you’re having the dream you think you’re in reality and it’s only later, when you look at the context of the dream, you find it strange.’ And so I thought, ‘Well, I’m gonna just do the dreams as upside-down images because that way, they can be totally realistic except that you notice something is fundamentally different, which is that they’re upside down.'”

June 25, 2008

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

The Ultimate DVD Geek

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon