I thought I would kick off the Slow Travel February Blogging Challenge with a review of a film, The Best of Youth (La Meglio Gioventù,) a 6-hour production that originally aired in Italy in 2003 on Rai Uno. It has generated a great deal of buzz on Slow Travel, and elsewhere, so I recently rented the DVD version (with English subtitles) and was hooked!
(Before I go any further, I should explain the Blogging Challenge. For the second year in a row, a group of Slow Travelers have decided to blog each day for the month. The list of bloggers taking part is on the right side of the page, beneath the challenge banner created by blogging queen Kim of What I Really Think http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/kim/)
To return to La Meglio Gioventù. The drama follows the lives of members of a middle-class Italian family, the Caratis, focusing particularly on two brothers, Matteo (played by Alessio Boni, lower photo) and Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio, with beard and Matteo in the upper photo) as well as their circle of friends and lovers.
By following the brothers' lives as they grow and mature, Best of Youth documents a similar evolution in Italian society. The story begins in the 1960s, when the brothers are on the verge of manhood, with hopes of improving their lives and their country; and winds down in the early 2000s, when their circle has dealt with many of the disappointments and challenges that come with maturity.
Turning points in their lives coincide with dramatic shifts in Italian society. The brothers and friends scatter early in their university days, but come together to help Florence cope with the devastating floods in 1966. An involvement with the terrorist Red Brigade in the 1970s illustrates the perils that face the family circle directly, and an evolving Italian society in general. Tragic deaths marks changing eras.
At first, I found director Marco Tullio Giordano's film rather hard to get into -- its opening in the early 1960s put me off because I'm really tired of movies about that era and the many cliches it evokes. But it didn't take long for me to become engrossed in the characters' lives as these unfolded.
Boni is fascinating as Matteo, a very angry man who hates no one so much as himself (we never understand quite why, which is actually rather true to life!) Certainly, no one around him really understands Matteo -- not even his brother, Nicola, who, as played by Lo Cascio, is a very kind, gentle psychiatrist, almost too good to be true. But you love him anyway!
I enjoyed my time with these people and only wish there was a followup (Best of Retirement?) It really was a fascinating family tale.