Occasionally my friend KayJay is visited by the free-ticket fairy and gifted with passes to select feature films. Occasionally she brings me as her +1. Sometimes these are advanced screenings involving Q&A’s with the writer, director or stars, and sometimes, like last night, they are actually the film’s premiere. Surprise! So there we were at the Paris Theatre to attend Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth, bypassing the miniature red carpet and the smattering of paparazzi to claim a seat. “Anywhere there isn’t a yellow paper,” the usher said. There were sheets of yellow paper affixed to many of the seats, one for Tim Roth, the film’s star and entire row for the Coppola clan (how many of them are there?). We selected two near the front, on the aisle, and waited for the program to begin, hearing a faint burble of excitement from the photographers when a celebrity attendee would arrive: Ooh, there’s Kathleen Turner. There’s the hot guy who played Ian Curtis in the Joy Division biopic! I was looking frumptastic, having dressed to insulate myself from the cold, not to mingle with the famous (or nearly famous). After a few introductory remarks, including a speech by the venerable director himself, the screening began.
What was the film about? About two hours but it felt longer. Seriously, I HAVE NO IDEA. Apparently Tim Roth plays a geriatric linguistics professor who’s about to kill himself when he gets struck by lightning and somehow becomes thirty years younger. And also a mutant! And there are Nazis! It is beyond! At one point Roth’s character’s reincarnated girlfriend is on her hands and knees in her nightgown, barking in ancient Sumerian; but not in a hot way, more in a “there is no Dana only Zhul” way. The whole thing plays like a B-movie crossed with a foreign art film. At one point the woman behind me proclaimed, in her very New Yorky accent and not bothering to whisper, “this is like Raiders of the Lost Ark for intellectuals.” Or, take for example this exchange of dialogue after Roth’s character spirits his love interest away to an island for a little R&R.:
She: What birds are in
He:(pointing skywards) That’s the Maltese falcon.
The film, which is ultimately about the choice between love and the pursuit of knowledge, ended and there was a beat of silence before enthusiastic applause broke out. We gathered our stuff and waited to file out, behind the VIPs and other industry folks.
As we trudged somberly into the cold night, I tried to wrap my brain around what I’d just seen. For a movie focused on time and youth, it felt like it robbed me of both.
Youth Without Youth [Rotten Tomatoes]
Related: The Godfather of Cinema Yearns for Youth [ABC]