YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH
Running Time 124 minutes
Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Tim Roth
I’d like to tell you about an indigestible attack of acid reflux called Youth Without Youth, but I couldn’t describe this nightmare under threat of a firing squad. Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in 10 years deserves serious attention, but this massive dose of Nembutal only manages to render you too comatose to think. Whatever he did to win five Oscars has been buried six feet under. Now a successful Napa Valley winemaker, he has, I fear, been drinking up his own profits.
You know a movie is doomed when the only star in it is Tim Roth. You know it’s pretentious when the ads print the logo backward and upside down. But I digress. Based on a theological novella by Mircea Eliade, Mr. Coppola’s film, which he also unwisely produced with his own money, and wrote, in a truncated narrative the cinematic equivalent of incomprehensible jabberwocky, relates a lugubrious story I dare you to explain in simple English. In a Romanian storm, a 70-year-old man is hit by lightning on a rainy day in Bucharest. He should have been paralyzed, mute and blind. But wait. When he wakes, burned like charcoal, and spits all of his teeth on the hospital floor, I knew this was not going to be easy. Instead, he grows new dents, his hair darkens, and he gets younger every day, with the functioning genitalia of a 40-year-old. Yikes, the guy is aging backward! Then he falls for a girl who may have lived several centuries earlier, as an Indian philosopher. There’s a problem. She’s getting older! Retreating from the reality of World War II to tape-record their experiences in their hermetically sealed time warp, they ignore the jackboots marching in the streets. By now he’s 88 and looks like a fencing master, while she’s forming dark circles under her eyes and her hair is falling into her hairbrush. The Nazi scientists are aroused. Would you believe lightning strikes twice, before he can complete his research into the origins of human language (huh?). Then … and … well … but surely, you’ve had enough. Not one word of this bilge makes one lick of sense, and it is two hours and six minutes long.
The only way to survive Youth Without Youth is dead drunk. The least Mr. Coppola could do is provide free Cabernet Sauvignon from his own vineyards. One bottle going in, another bottle staggering out, available at no cost in the theater lobby. For a bad director, this could even be a smart business move. The audience will still find Youth Without Youth excruciating, but it’s easier to get through it if you’re feeling no pain.