Cannes: Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Youth’ Divides Press Audience

Boos and bravos alike greeted Wednesday morning’s Cannes screening of “Youth,” Paolo Sorrentino’s drama starring Michael Caine as a retired orchestra conductor contemplating the indignities of old age and the trappings of celebrity at a luxurious mountain resort.

Perhaps the most divisive film to screen in competition so far, “Youth,” which Fox Searchlight is releasing Stateside, is this festival’s second high-profile, English-language title to receive catcalls from journalists. Still, it was much better received than Gus Van Sant’s much-derided “The Sea of Trees” last week, with Sorrentino’s partisans proving just as loud and passionate as his detractors.

The booers at least waited until the end of the film’s main credits, which played over a climactic musical sequence that the audience watched in silence. But when the film officially ended and the screen went dark, loud boos kicked in from all corners of the theater, followed by an even louder wave of applause and shouts of “Bravo!” that grew louder as the end credits rolled.

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“Youth” has much creative and stylistic DNA in common with Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty,” which also centered around a man weighing the burdens, regrets and rewards of a life lived in the spotlight. (Critics also drew post-screening comparisons to last year’s Cannes entry “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which shares with “Youth” an idyllic Alpine setting and a somewhat jaundiced view of the entertainment industry.)

The film may well have struck some viewers as too similar to Sorrentino’s past work for their taste, though admirers of the director’s operatic, visually extravagant style have come to expect such consistency. At the same time, it features meaty performances from Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel (among others), who were already generating talk of year-end awards potential after the screening.

“Youth” opens today in Italian theaters via Medusa.

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