After hours of crafting apocalyptic visions of our cultural future (see the last six or seven postings of mine), mourning the loss of independent cinema and the steep decline of audience IQ, I’ve decided to take a break from all that pessimism. Perhaps a certain amount of fatigue has set in; you can burn a lot of calories resisting the wave of history.
Let’s face the facts: actors, writers, directors and producers are sprinting onto the small screen; the major streaming services are slamming onto the marketplace, competing with the four major networks for high-quality “must-watch TV.” Netflix alone is committing $8 billion to near-future production.
So I cave to cultural hegemony: I hereby abjure my Luddite pessimism—at least for the next three months. Change is in the air—shorter days and burnished leaves, even here in Los Angeles.
However…instead of writing about the joys of STRANGER THINGS Season 2, I’d prefer to recommend a hybrid—a film originally produced for television as a miniseries, but which won awards as a theatrical feature film at Cannes, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Denver, Rotterdam, several Golden Globe awards and six Italian Oscars (including Best Film)—way back in 2004.
The film, THE BEST OF YOUTH (LA MEGLIA GIOVENTU) grossed a mere $245 thousand dollars in its U.S. theatrical release; but strong word-of-mouth over the years has made it a cult-classic. At six hours, it’s a bear to approach; yet audiences are quickly charmed by its quick humor, its deep exploration of how youth’s commitment to ideals evolves for various characters—the compromises we make, the consolations of love and family, the consequences of a descent into isolation.
It’s a true anomaly of a film—at six hours, I find it consistently riveting and emotionally true. The performances of its leads are all pure, strong, affecting.
Scott Foundas of VARIETY wrote, “The kind of movie rarely attempted any more — and even less frequently achieved with any measure of success — Marco Tullio Giordana’s “The Best of Youth” is an impassioned epic that sweeps up its characters in nearly 40 years of human drama and social history, intertwining the two with a master seamstress’ delicacy.”
And David Edelstein of SLATE, wrote “Six hours, you think—wow, that sounds endless. But The Best of Youth doesn’t have a boring millisecond. It isn’t an art film, with longueurs; it’s a mini-series with the sweep of a classic novel, with tons of plot. Not that Giordana (or the screenwriters, Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli) skim the surface. The scenes are short but penetrating; the tiniest exchanges can explode into epiphanies; and the five-year leaps are amazingly fluid. There is a kind of forthright lyricism in the way Giordana handles the landscape and the characters’ yearning for connection, meaning, and the high spirits of their youth. It’s that yearning that holds the episodic narrative together—along with a recurring, plangent musical motif that all but makes the screen shiver.”
Watch the YouTube trailer, but really take a look at the comments below, because if you’re wondering if it’s really worth six hours of your time, the answers are in the comments.
And on Rotten Tomatoes, it received a 95% critics’ rating, and a 98% “popcorn” rating:
Watch THE BEST OF YOUTH — better than dessert.