Sunday, December 20, 2015

Youth not wasted on the not so young

Youth is an interesting film. I haven't quite worked out what I think of it yet but I'm definitely glad I saw it.

M and I watched it last night in a twenty-person theatre, the youngest members of the audience by a good twenty years, I'd say, and we went away feeling we'd experienced something deeply interesting and surprisingly entertaining. I had tears in my eyes for the final scene, but that's not unusual for me, most things move me to tears. It's a condition.

I don't know if we were supposed to to cringe when the leggy, big-busted model-actress played by Mădălina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe strolls naked into the spa ogled by Caine and Keitel, crinkly and wrinkly old men in their late seventies; I cringed a little (not sure about M).

But this wasn't any old-man's sex-fantasy film. It was supposed to be about age and ageing, yes, but it was almost just as much about gender and an expose of the dirty male gaze, indeed of the power of woman in youth, middle, and old age, to not just control men but to be their reason for living and their wisdom.

In the previous scene with Miss Universe, she was dressed right down - messy hair and clothes, no cleavage, bare legs or waist, such that Caine wouldn't recognise her naked - and when treated like an idiot by a youngish man in that state, with her beauty hidden, she totally owned the guy by showing she knew better the purpose of life, film, irony, art, etc, than he - a frustrated actor who took himself too seriously - did. You don't see a super smart 'Miss Universe' dress down a male actor of any age on the silver screen very often.

Jane Fonda, tarted up like the classic has-been actress with puffy blonde wig and too much make-up, also steals the show by speaking the hard truth to director Keitel, telling him he didn't make her, as he'd always presumed - classic 'big' man assumption - but she made him, or at least she made herself, with her mother's help, and was not beholden to any man for her success and that now, he couldn't make his films without her, a claim that proves a fatal truth.

It was cleverly written on the whole and interesting in a way that if taken seriously, promises a new direction in the medium of film, if not art in general. It seems to be saying that men, especially powerful (white) men, are flawed, shallow, far from complete creatures, whereas the women around them, who put up with their cheating, who work for them, who serve them, who sleep with and titillate them, are much more complex, often cleverer and essentially stronger creatures than they are.

It's still written from a male perspective, with women as secondary cast, but the women are somehow more the subjects than the usual objects of that perspective, at least much more so than the cinematic norm.

So I would say, on balance, that Youth is not wasted on the not so young, especially the not so young men, should they be big enough and not too old to watch and learn.

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