Friday, May 30, 2008

Review - La Meglio Gioventu (The Best of Youth)

Pitu reviews the decorated 2003 Italian epic

I remember the first time I heard Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as a recalcitrant teenager. As I sat, surly and hunched, on my father's armchair, I heard the the most heart-achingly beautiful strains of the oboe depicting Odette's glimpse of the Prince by moonlight. Minutes later, rebellion forgotten, I had been transported to a world where love and sorrow co-existed, and the world was beautiful despite it.

It is music that has stayed with me ever since.

I experienced the same emotional roller coaster this weekend when I watched The Best of Youth, a 2003 Italian miniseries depicting the lives of the Carati family through four decades. What can I say? The same sense of being swept away, the highs of success and joy, the exuberance of first love, the familiarity of a family bickering at the dinner table, and the same murky depths of the human heart. The rage of losing a loved one, the anguish over past errors, and the somber realization that despite it all, the human spirit cannot, and must not shatter.

We delude ourselves into thinking we know people so well, but how well do we really know them? As I traced the lives of brothers Matteo and Nicola, I came away thinking I knew these two, as well as I can presume to know anybody, I guess. But not all is gloom and melancholy in this haunting drama.

The cities of Italy come alive in this series- Roma in her gritty valor, Firenze in her sepia charm, Torino in her unabashed rebellion. These aren't backdrops, so much as they are witnesses to the lives of these characters. Alessio Boni as Matteo and Luigi Lo Cascio as Nicola will hypnotize you.

As the credits rolled, I bid adieu to the Caratis much as I had said my goodbyes to Odette and Siegfried so many years ago. These are people you will never forget, these are stories you will never forget.

The quiet beauty of this film came through for me in the scene when Nicola says to his daughter Sara:
“Are you happy now?”
“Of course I am!”
“Then, now is the time to be generous”

Do yourself a favor. Beg, borrow or steal this DVD. It is an experience you will cherish for years to come.

More: The preview


Unknown said...

Is it just me or are all these Italian people just really good looking?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pitu. Awesome review. I will try to find the DVD. Hopefully netflix has it.

This is something I have always wondered about non hindi films. The city they use as a backdrop is so much a part of the character of the movie. You can recognize the city by just looking at the people, the restaurants and the sites.

For some reason, Hindi movie cinematrographers have never been able to capture that feel. Shahrukh Khan's house in London in K3G looked like a house from anywhere (not to forget Vande Mataram playing when Hrithik lands in London). Same goes for the hindi movies that are based in New York.

Unknown said...

Joules, great point. Although in Darjeeling Limited I thought Wes Anderson came close especially in this hilarious opening sequence.

In general the ability of the writers in that movie to make minute observations about India and then slide them into the background was something enjoyable for me.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pitu - that just reminded me to download some tchaikovsky. I was seven when we went to see the Russians perform the ballet and I was your usual annoying kid until the lights went up - didn't make a sound. It was kinda like getting a pass into an alternate universe.
If the movie's even half as nice, I'll be thrilled. Off to beg, borrow or steal it. Thanks for the reco!

Joules - I think that's a pretty recent phenom more seen with the glossier BW movies. I think lower budget movies set in Bombay esp have a way of capturing the feel.

Anonymous said...

Very touching review. I will have to catch this movie.

Anonymous said...

Aspi: It's not just you. When I visited Italy, I couldn't stop drooling at the ridiculously gorgeous people. Ajit had a crush on our 60 yr old tour guide who I swear looked like Sophia Loren.

Joules: Thanks :-) I shd have mentioned it in the review, but yes, Netflix does have it! Actually, parallel Hindi movies do a great job of capturing a city. You haven't witnessed Bombay's grime and grit till youv'e seen Dharavi for eg. Mainstream movies, not so much.

Amrita: Tchai is prolly the only composer I can think of who is loved by kids everywhere. Very universal music. As a kid, I loved Carnavale des Animaux though, fave part being the Elephants :-) That's my biggest gripe - that kids are not exposed to the Arts as much as they are immersed in their Lion Kings and Finding Nemos. Nothing wrong with Pixar of course, but there should be a balance otherwise you end up with annoying adults who say things like "Symphonies suck!", "Men in ballet tights look daft" etc etc.

Mind Rush: Thanks :-) Get it from Netflix.

Anonymous said...

Pitu,I second Mind Rush.your review was indeed very touching.You're gifted!:-)

Anonymous said...

loved this film. thanx for the review!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cinderella :-)

BB, thanks, you've seen it? What did you think?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the drift, our list of dvds to see is growing...

Thanks Pitu, you have piqued us with this review. This will be next on after I exhaust all the episodes of 'The Tudors' that are out on dvd.

About Italians, from what I remember from our trip many years ago, they are not only beautiful but also fashionably and edgily dressed. You will see very few shabbily dressed people on the streets. Most women are in heels most of the time. It was quite a change from the dowdy, sweatpants look of the average american.

Anonymous said...

OMG meena, you're watching The Tudors? Depraved ole me is dying to catch that series!! Mmm Jonathan Rhys Meyers in period clothing + 'lesty looks' + va va voom music *sigh* You liking the series? Am going to go add it to my queue the minute I finish these 3 Ray movies.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Rhys Meyers rocks the series. He is an unlikely Henry8 but once you start watching man...I am enjoying them so far..Youll love the period detail if you're into it. ..and this is HBO they dont just stop at lesty looks;)

Anonymous said...

I know *giggle* My friend was like "It's intellectual porn" well, that's good, no? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well, its not any worse than sex and the city, only interestingly there seemed to have been quite a few Samanthas around then:)

Anonymous said...

I did not see that in Rome as much when we visited early this month. Perhaps too many tourist. Or perhaps people in Austin are dressing quite trendily. Austin has two extremes - you see the hippies/nudist or the young 25-35 year olds out on the prowl.

Rome and Italy to me seemed quite conservative from what I thought it would be. Yes, there are a lot of women walking in high heels but more covered shoulders and longer dresses. Possibly Milan must be more fashionable and edgy.