Coppola Debuts Newest Film "Youth Without Youth" on the East Coast

The Monmouth County Arts Council, Red Bank, New Jersey, hosted the East Coast premier of Francis Ford Coppola’s newest film “Youth Without Youth.”  Held at Clearview Cinemas on December 13th, the screening was a fundraiser for the group, and the event “scooped” the New York premier by a day. 

The MCAC event screening also “scooped” the Los Angeles premier.

Monmouth County Arts Council Executive Director Mary Eileen Fouratt, Don Crocker of the Support Center for Non-Profit Management, and Pat Richter

“Sony Picture Classics usually chooses about four films a year to premier here in New Jersey at fund raisers for the (Monmouth County) Arts Council,” Terri Thomas, Community Arts Director for MCAC told me.  “We’re very lucky for that and very grateful.”

“I don’t think we can go wrong with a Francis Ford Coppola film,” Thomas added.  “And we do speak to the audience and we get comments and really observe how people react to the films and what areas of the film they like, what they don’t.  We usually (send) those comments and observations to (Sony) afterward; they’re very interested to know how audiences respond to the films.”

“The films are usually beyond mainstream,” Thomas said further.  “They’re usually very innovative, cutting-edge, or, you know, great producers and directors like Francis Ford Coppola.  So there’s always something wonderful for the audience to see.”

“We’ve had everything from documentaries, like “Riding Giants,” to foreign films to this and everything in-between,” MCAC’s executive director, Mary Ellen Fouratt, told me.  “We’ve done, probably fifteen films (with Sony).”  The films are released later, and then, as Fouratt quipped, the organization “has bragging rights.”

Bob and Elisabeth McKay, local photographers who are long-time MCAC supporters. Their firm, McKay Images will help with MCAC's new arts magazine launch in the spring.

The intimate group attending this particular reception/screening included MCAC sponsors Bob McKay and his wife, of McKay Imaging, Red Bank, board member Cheryl Cummings, of Brookdale Community College, MCAC president, Peter J. Lyden III, and Judy Mumford-Guerry, board member and owner of Mumford Design.  The McKays help the Council with production of their magazine “State of the Art.”  The Council will be launching a new magazine in the spring- an exciting prospect for them- for which Mumford Designs will take a lead role.  Cummings is in charge of Communications Arts at Brookdale and oversees a production facility, an educational access channel, and a performing arts center- great synergy with MCAC programs. 

Set in Romania, “Youth Without Youth” is based on a novel by Mircea Eliade and produced by Coppola for American Zoetrope.  The story line is intriguing, thought-provoking and, at times, both repelling and lovely:  after being hit by lightening, a lonely seventy-year-old professor suddenly regains his youth.  He is then, among other things, given a second chance to pursue a woman he loved and lost earlier in life.

Coppola is probably best known for his films “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now,” but he is also quoted as saying, “…You don’t always want to make movies where people shoot each other…” 

I’d seen one of Coppola’s other close-to-the-heart creations, “One From the Heart” (1982) when it was privately screened several years ago in Coppola’s viewing room beneath his San Francisco restaurant.  That production, featuring one of Coppola’s great loves, actress Teri Garr (a Santa Monica, CA, favorite), was set surreally in Las Vegas.  A song-and-dancey production to the point of being considered “campy,” it was considered by many reviewers to be a “flop.”  I’m happy to say that “Youth Without Youth,” however, while also containing elements of Coppola’s thoughts on life, love, and love relationships, and also taking off on, shall we say, a few flights of the writer’s fancy, seems more grounded.

Tim Roth- usually cast as a villain, but cast in “Youth” as a brainy, elderly professor- uses a wide range of acting talents to portray main character Dominique Matei.  Matei enters as a frail seventy-year-old, becomes a robust and sexually re-charged young man after the jolt of lightening, then relives his middle age with a new opportunity to re-examine all that’s come before.  Along the way Roth’s character demonstrates an ability to learn via osmosis, to use other extra-sensory type powers, and understand and employ a wide range of languages.  The premise is a stretch, but the overall effects of the life-altering event are intriguing, and Roth is for the most part quite believable.

Alexandra Maria Lara, the lead female/love interest, is alternatively delicate, beautiful, enchanting, and frightening.  After her meeting with the lead character she begins her own descent back in time, communicating by way of ancient languages such as Sanskrit, then eventually devolving to being poised to recount events that took place preceding the time of spoken language.   Again, the premise is fantastical, but we allow it, and as such Lara is convincing both elegantly coiffed and outfitted for a formal dinner/dance event and also in a state of relative undress as a savage, attempting to communicate on all fours.
One thing that stood out was the fact that many of the scenes are filmed outdoors, some in what appears to be very cold weather.  One poetic example is the closing scene, which takes place in an area where there is snow (unforgettable).  Coppola explains in an interview that there were no trailers used when the filming was done, and that the actors enjoyed “no luxury” and were truly “out in the cold.”  One wonders as to the degree of difficulty for the cast- not only in affecting various language and speech mannerisms, but also simply enduring temperature changes on shoot location.

As always, it seems Coppola demands as much from his cast as he does from himself- and it works.  “Youth Without Youth” is a thought-provoking and stimulating fantasy departure for Coppola. 

The film opens to the public in January 2008.

Some teens who participate in MCAC programs

The Monmouth County Arts Council will feature their juried art show at the Monmouth Museum in January.  “We’ve just gone digital with that,” Fouratt told me.  “The deadline just passed, and we’ve been getting tons of entries.”  They’re also working on their Teen Arts Festival during which they’ll bring together about 2,000 student artists to work with professional artists.  An impressive project, this event takes place in March 2008. 

“Monmouth is one of the most amazing ‘arts’ counties in the State,” Fouratt said.  Based on what I saw and heard on this particular sneak-preview screening, I’d have to concur.

M.D. Caprario
Photos Courtesy of Karin Jervert of the Monmouth County Arts Council

“Youth Without Youth
An American Zoetrope production, Sony Pictures Classic film
Lead:  Tim Roth
Lead:  Alexandra Maria Lara
Also starring:  Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Pirici, Marcel Iures, Andre M. Hennicke
Based on the novel by Mircea Eliade
Executive Producers:  Anahid Nazarian and Fred Roos

M. D. Caprario is a freelance writer and editor who grew up in New Jersey and works in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco- or wherever great entertainment news is being made.  Reach her at [email protected].


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