The years have brought no peace to Francis Ford Coppola, a decade MIA and the victim of his own history. If his early masterpiece, The Godfather, was a remarkable feat of alchemy—transforming Mario Puzo’s tawdry potboiler into an epic meditation on American family—Coppola today leases his seriousness from the highbrow. The source for Youth Without Youth is an excruciatingly obtuse novella by Romanian religious historian Mircea Eliade, about a professor struck by lightning who awakes to find his body 30 years younger. As played by Tim Roth, Dominic Mattei is an obvious stand-in for Coppola himself (though if Dominic’s life’s work—discovering the origin of language—represents the true scope of Coppola’s ambitions, it may be time to return to pinot noir).
Coppola works overtime on mood—opening with beguiling Vertigo-inspired credits, turning his camera upside down and sideways, upstaging his actors with a meticulous set design. Tracing the connections among physician Bruno Ganz, a Nazi dominatrix, a lost love (also a reincarnated Indian noble) and Dominic’s Dostoyevsky-by-way-of-Gollum double is a tantalizing proposition, but it requires more trust than Coppola earns. Increasingly protective of his artistic integrity, the director resembles The Conversation’s Harry Caul—tearing up the walls and playing his music, even if no one is listening.
Cast and crew
Florin Piersic Jr
Alexandra Maria Lara