Youth (Italy-France-UK-Switzerland, 2015) and 45 Years (UK, 2015)

It was a coincidence that I saw these two films about aging close to one another. The timing was apposite as I’m at the time of life where there’s a definite sense of ‘before and after’, like being a parent, but now it’s to do with the ending of a career.

 

Not getting any younger

Youth is Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘laddish’ take on old age; Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play characters in their eighties. While Caine, a composer, has retired, Keitel is a director and is trying to script his ‘greatest film’. They have been friends for 60 years and cantankerously deal with failing memories with some very droll lines: “Remember yesterday we were talking about children?” “No”.

Caine is particularly good, his large glasses evoking his ‘60s persona when he was British cinema’s ‘dish’. The pair rattle around a luxurious Swiss spar – cue beautiful landscape – observing bodies both youthful and decrepit. The pleasure in the film is in the dry comedy and the performances including a great cameo from Jane Fonda. Sorrentino directs with panache, some of his compositions are magical.

‘Who are we?’

45 Years, on the other hand, is more philosophical. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney’s couple are about to celebrate 45 years of marriage when the latter receives news that the body of a former love has been found preserved in a Swiss glacier. The corpse, Katya, predates Rampling’s Kate but the letter catapult’s Geoffrey into his past and his wife is unsure suddenly about her status in their relationship. If Youth focuses on thinking about the past then 45 Years drags the past into the present.

Haigh, whose debut Weekend was impressive, keeps the camera mostly on Kate as she struggles to deal with the secrets she finds after 45 years of marriage. The final shot, a long dolly into her amongst a crowd of people, is a brilliant ending.

I can’t say I’m any wiser having enjoyed both films. As a youngster film was so vital because it could teach me so much however, having watched several thousand films, not to mention the other art I have consumed, it becomes harder to find the insight art can provide. The protagonists of both films are much older than I but they do give me a glimpse of what may be ahead of me.

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