DID YOU READ

“Youth Without Youth”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Youth Without Youth,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

Francis Ford Coppola clearly finds something very cinematic in the idea of someone who not as old as they look. Why else would he make “Jack,” a movie about 45-year-old Robin Williams as a fifth grader, and now “Youth Without Youth,” about a decrepit linguistics professor named Dominic Matei who receives the gift of a second life from an errant bolt of lightning? Oddly, though Coppola and Matei are both intellectually curious men, they seem strangely disinterested in this incredible turn of events. Imagine if Peter Parker discovered he had the proportionate strength of the spider, shrugged his shoulders and went right back to working on his science fair project.

Though Coppola would almost certainly never couch it in these terms, he’s made a comic book flick, albeit one that looks like a beautiful old Italian movie and is based on a Romanian novel. Once Matei (Tim Roth) undergoes his transformation, he gains all sorts of cool new powers to go along with his rejuvenated exterior, including mind control and a rather unique take on the concept of “speed reading.” He even gains a scheming split personality who speaks to him through reflective surfaces, not unlike Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. And yet there is never a moment where Matei takes his nose out of his books about the origins of language to consider what’s happened to him and go “Holy crap!”

To a certain degree, “Youth Without Youth” is like one of Matei’s ancient library volumes: dusty, stodgy and filled with old-fashioned turns of phrase. Admittedly, much if not all of this is intentional, and suggests the film’s title in the same way that even after Matei sheds about 30 years of physical age he still carries his arms and his face the way an old man would (it’s one of the nicer aspects of Roth’s performance). Coppola and cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. focus on lighting and composition and striking use of color, particularly a red in flowers and even a swastika that is so rich it appears to stain the very film stock, staying on screen even as the rest of the images from one scene begin to fade to the next. If the camera moves even once in a scene, it’s a lot. Everything is restrained and reserved, and even the more intense, action-oriented scenes are approached with a kind of academic or painterly spirit.

But the movie is called “Youth Without Youth,” not “Life Without Life,” and I must admit that I found much of it frustratingly inert (so, apparently, did the gentlemen next to me at the screening, who fell so deeply asleep he actually snored through most of the second hour). After Matei’s second life takes him from a Romanian hospital to Nazi Germany, he finds a woman named Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara) who looks remarkably like Matei’s great lost love Laura (also Lara). Before the “Vertigo” overtones become too oppressive, Veronica becomes possessed by an ancient soul named Rupini and further experiments lead Matei to believe he can guide her regressions to help support his research into the history of early man. When Veronica isn’t twitching and speaking in tongues, her affair with Matei is supposed to be the sort of unquenchable love that even death itself cannot stop. But Roth and Lara can’t sustain enough chemistry to last a typical coffee break, let alone a few centuries. And yeah, part of Matei’s flaw as a character is his willingness to prefer his work to his love, but with a relationship this chilly, who could blame him?

“Youth Without Youth” is clearly a personal film — but that’s about all that’s clear about it. Coppola feels something strongly here, but what exactly? The film is about massive themes and concepts — love and death and time and art and communication — but at its core, there isn’t a central idea or compelling story or marvelous performance holding it all together. Magic bolts of lightning provide youth, but not always great inspiration.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.