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December 26, 2005

The Best of Youth

La Meglio Gioventu
Marco Tullio Giordana - 2003
VII Pillars Entertainment NTSC Region 3 DVD

If one were to watch The Best of Youth back-to-back with Bertolucci's 1900 one could have a cinematic overview of the history of Italy in the 20th Century. There is also the possibility that Marco Giordana may be making his own prequel. What makes The Best of Youth succeed is that the longer the film progresses, the more intimate it feels. If the film is more than epic length with a running time just passing six hours for the entire film, the experience of viewing the film is less difficult and certainly more absorbing than many shorter films. If the span of almost forty years makes one think of 1900, the new film also is reminiscent of Francesco Rosi's Three Brothers as well.

Unlike Bertolucci or Rosi, Giordana's statements on the state of Italy come across more fully integrated as part of the film. More so in Rosi's film, but also in Bertolucci's, the characters seemed to exist more as symbols to express certain points of view than as people. While characters do express opposing political opinions, there is little sloganeering. The emphasis is primarily on the family dynamics with the historical activity taking a subsidiary role.

The narrative is essentially about the lives of two brothers from 1966 to 2003, there interactions with each other and other family members, and how their lives are effected by key events in relatively recent Italian history. The film is also about memory, or more precisely, the preservation of memory. The narrative for the brother Matteo involves personal and public libraries, the preservation of books, and the act of photography both as a means of documentation and as a form of artistic expression. The brother Nicola's work as a psychiatrist is to primarily heal people by addressing their memories of traumatic experiences. Nicola's daughter studies art restoration, while the mother, Giulia, works as an archivist. Characters meet and part during major events like the 1966 flood of Florence and the student strikes of 1968, and cross paths with storylines involving the Red Brigades and the Mafia activity in Sicily. None of the historical action is as important as simply wanting to know what will happen next to the family members.

Giordana uses an eclectic range of music throughout the film as well both as signifiers of certain time periods and as emotional shorthand ranging from The Four Tops, J.S. Bach, Astor Piazzola and Benjamin Britten. Giordana also refers to Truffaut's Jules and Jim by using a one of Georges Delerue's themes. There is also a brief mention of Roberto Rossellini film of tragic love, Stromboli. The title comes from a poem by Pasolini, the subject of an earlier film by Giordana.

The filmography of the woman who plays the family matriarch, Adriana Asti, includes work with key Italian directors over the past fifty years, including Visconti, Pasolini, Bertolucci, and De Sica.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 26, 2005 09:39 PM


Peter --

Can I just go on record and say that I am green with envy over your film-watching habits. I thought I took in a lot of film, but you have me beat by a mile.

How is the quality of the VII Pillars DVD? Is it the right aspect ratio?

Posted by: Filmbrain at December 29, 2005 10:13 AM

I can only say that I have the time to watch films and write about them. In terms of the aspect ratio, "The Best of Youth" was in a theatrical screen format. It should also be noted that the official running time of this version is 351 minutes.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at December 29, 2005 01:15 PM