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    The Best of Youth

    Long may you Rome

    Any way you slice it, the six-hour Italian saga "The Best of Youth" resonates with both history and our epic, imperfect lives.


    With a six-hour movie like "Best of Youth," the first thing you have to deal with is a basic practical issue: How are you going to watch it? All the way through at one sitting? Three hours one day and three hours the next? (Film Forum is giving New Yorkers both of these options via creative scheduling.) But here's the way you'd really want see the film in a perfect world: the first two hours in your 20s, the middle two hours in your 40s, and the last two hours in your 60s.

    Original title: La meglio giovent¯.
    Directed by: Marco Tullio Giordana.
    Written by: Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli.
    Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Fabrizio Gifuni, Maya Sansa, Valentina Carnelutti, Jasmine Trinca, Andrea Tidona, Lidia Vitale, Camilla Filippi, Greta Cavuoti, Sara Pavoncello, Claudio Gio¸, Riccardo Scamarcio.
    Cinematography: Roberto Forza.
    Edited by: Roberto Missirola.
    In Italian with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | Italian site
    Film Forum 209 West Houston St. (between 6th and 7th Ave.) (212) 727-8100

    "Best of Youth" is an ambitious attempt to intertwine a family's multi-decade personal saga with the sweep of contemporary Italian history. If this were an American film, you could imagine it starting with the Vietnam War and continuing through 9/11. In each era, the family goes through its own crises, the events of the day intruding or fading into the background. This being Italy, the events are different but the idea is the same.

    At the heart of the story are two brothers — rugged Matteo and brainy Nicola. Matteo — something of a washout in college, bickering with his examiners over which is Italy's best religious poet — eventually signs up for the army and the national police. Nicola, on the other hand, excels in school and his professors send him into the world in 1966 with the following wisdom.

    The Best of Youth  
    "Do you have ambition? Then leave. Leave Italy," one respected old professor says. "It is a dying place — a beautiful country about to be destroyed."

    "Why are you still here?" Nicola asks.

    "Are you crazy?" answers the professor. "I'm one of the dinosaurs to be destroyed."

    Is Italy really a dying place, circa 1966? Maybe it's tottering between birth and death. As Bob Dylan would sing at about the same time, "He not busy being born is busy dying." The idea of the film is to look at what kind of new Italian was born after the war, and what kind of new country he built over the bones of the old.

    Four women haunt Matteo and Nicola. Besides their mother, there's Giulia, a creative, intellectual and icy leftist who enchants Nicola and bears him a daughter while becoming increasingly enmeshed in the Red Brigades. Meanwhile, the only time the hard-shelled Matteo lets himself get the slightest bit close to a woman — a warm-hearted southerner named Mirella — the consequences leave both in a turmoil that doesn't go away over the years. The fourth woman is Giorgia, a mentally troubled inpatient Nicola and Matteo try to rescue — a failure that seems to jolt both brothers in life directions they could not have predicted as fresh-faced undergraduates. She re-emerges in each era as a reminder of the sadness, injustice and hope of life.

      The Best of Youth
    Even if you decide to take on the whole "Best of Youth" in one six-hour endurance test, it will rarely let you down. It's a soap opera with both weight and human interest — a group of personal stories told well, its engaging characters performed with warmth and compassion, encompassing the scope of a whole life, from idealistic youth to reflective old age.

    MARCH 6, 2005

    Reader comments on The Best of Youth:

  • best of youth viewing suggestions   from george hovey, Apr 24, 2005
  • [no subject]   from vitor cruz, Jun 30, 2005
  • [no subject]   from , Aug 25, 2005
  • Thoughts on "Best of Youth"   from Carole in Toronto, Oct 26, 2005
  • Re: Thoughts on   from jacky, Feb 9, 2006
  • [no subject]   from Sue, Nov 21, 2005
  • Wonderful!   from Fulvio (Salerno, Italy), Oct 9, 2006
  • Re: Wonderful!   from iman, Nov 16, 2006
  • The Best of Youth and some of my memories   from Maria, Feb 26, 2007
  • Best of Youth   from Maureen Nerli, Mar 25, 2007
  • Best of Youth   from JJ, Oct 21, 2007
  • sat thru 6 hrs straight   from Beauty Arbuthnot, Feb 11, 2010

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