One of my favourite actors – Sir Michael Caine turned 85 this week, and this is my belated opportunity to celebrate by reviewing one of Caine’s more recent films directed by the eminent Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty” (2013)). “Youth” is about Fred Ballinger (Caine), a retired music composer who reminisces on his life while luxuriating at a health resort in the Swiss Alps. His old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), an American film director, keeps him company, while his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), who suffers from a relationship break-up, prompts Fred to re-examine his past familial relationships. A very much Sorrentino film, “Youth” may not reach the heights of Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty“, but it is still an interesting examination of a life past with some great acting as well as breathtakingly beautiful vistas on display.
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Being a cultural and historical centre for centuries, Rome has always attracted leading cinematographers. In the 1950s and 1960s, Rome was considered the European “Hollywood”, embodied in the famous Cinecittà film studio that produced such epic films as “Ben-Hur” (1959) and “Cleopatra” (1963). To this day, this historic city remains the one to which filmmakers flock to: (i) showcase its main beauties and cultural delights, as is the case with “Roman Holiday” (1953), ““Plein Soleil” (1961), “My Own Private Idaho” (1991) and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999); (ii) to ridicule Rome’s high society and decadent lifestyle, as in “La Dolce Vita” (1960) and “The Great Beauty” (2013); or (iii) to provide a setting for a grim, chaotic, (post-)war, almost apocalyptic scenario, as embodied in such films as “Rome, Open City” (1945), “Bicycle Thieves” (1948), “L’Eclisse” (1962) and “Il Conformista” (1970).
I. Roman Holiday (1953)
Directed by William Wyler (“Ben-Hur“), this tale about a princess who escapes from her tiresomely busy daily duties while in Rome only to meet and have a romantic connection with a journalist is fascinating, recalling in plot “It Happened One Night” (1934). In Rome, Princess Ann and Joe Bradley (Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in their respective leading roles), go through the famous sights of Rome, including: meeting at the Roman Forum (more precisely at the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septimus Severus), where the Princess falls asleep; trying their luck at the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita) at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin; going past on a scooter by the Colosseum; having breakfast near the Pantheon; taking in the sun on the Spanish Steps; and attending the interview at the Palazzo Colonna.
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