The Best of Films

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Six hours of your time, spread over two evenings in the theater. To see what is essentially a subtitled Italian television mini-series without recognizable stars, special effects, or for that matter, hot sex or graphic violence. To say that The Best of Youth demands an unusual commitment from us understates the case.

Yet it is one that should be made. For this intimate epic, tracing the story of two brothers from their student days in the radical sixties to an end that is both tragic and hopeful in the nineties, is one of the truly memorable movie experiences of recent times.

One of the boys, the patient and kindly Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) becomes a psychiatrist. His possibly more gifted, but much more shadowed brother, Matteo (Alessio Boni), becomes a policeman notable for brutality, hasty judgement and grimly lonesome ways. We suspect he may come to a bad end, but we are not prepared for the shock and suddenness of its arrival. We're almost equally surprised when Nicola's wife, a gifted pianist, descends into the murderous radicalism that afflicted Italy during the "leaden years" of the 1970s. In tracing these two lives, director Marco Tulio Giordana effortlessly evokes many of the great events of Italy's recent past, ranging from the floods in Florence to the struggle against the Mafia in Sicily. At the same time he deftly involves us with a huge cast of characters—parents, siblings, lovers, friends. His melodramatic punctuations of these lives never jar us into disbelief; they simply stir the course of his elegantly believable, totally compelling narrative flow.

The Best of Youth played briefly,to rapturous response, in a couple of locations earlier this spring. Now it is returning to "selected cities." Pray that you live in one of them.