The Best of Youth (La Meglio Gioventu)

on March 02, 2005 by Kevin Courrier
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A sublime and richly satisfying experience that shouldn't be missed, this sprawling six-and-a-half-hour epic is a finely textured story that traces the lives of two distinctly different brothers from a middle-class Italian family. The film is divided into two parts. It begins with their graduation from university in the hopeful period of 1966, following through the politically turbulent '70s, then into their middle age of the early '80s. Part two begins with Italy's 1982 World Cup victory and follows their lives into the '90s on through to the present day as Italy tries to rebuild into a more modern nation.

"The Best of Youth" is a powerfully affecting coming-of-age story. Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) is a hopeful university graduate who is open to the adventures and surprises that life offers him. His brother, Matteo (Alessio Boni), however, is a deeply unhappy man who seeks refuge in security and order. "The Best of Youth" contrasts, over time, the way historical events intersect with their radically different lives and ultimately shape the individual fates of the two siblings.

Although "The Best of Youth" was financed by--and for--Italian television, it has an intimacy and sensibility unlike most television movies. The story may be episodic, taking in the famous flood in Florence in the '60s, Sicily's struggle against the Mafia, and the terrorism of the Red Brigades, but the characters add depth and meaning to those troubling periods.

"The Best of Youth" certainly isn't radical in terms of its technique, but director Marco Tullio Giordana paints a luxurious and loving portrait. There are some beautifully modulated performances from a vast cast of compelling characters. "The Best of Youth," like the best of Jean Renoir, Satyajit Ray and Luciano Visconti, is a humanistic and profoundly affirmative statement. Starring Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti and Sonia Bergamasco. Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana. Written by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli. Produced by Angelo Barbagallo. A Miramax release. Drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 383 min

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