Cannes 2015: Michael Caine recalls trading jokes with the Queen at Youth press …

21 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cannes 2015: Michael Caine recalls trading jokes with the Queen at Youth press conference.

“She knighted me once,” he said easily, discussing a meeting with Queen Elizabeth in 2000. “I nearly got into trouble, though. CANNES, France — Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth,” having its premiere at the on Wednesday night, stars Michael Caine as Fred Ballinger, an aging composer on vacation at a Swiss resort.Paolo Sorrentino’s new movie set in a Swiss sanatorium is a diverting, minor work, tweaked up with funny ideas and images and visually as stylish as ever.

She said to me, ‘I have a feeling you have been doing what you do for a very long time.’ And I almost said, ‘And so have you.’ ” Caine stars alongside Harvey Keitel in writer/director Paolo Sorrentino’s second English-language film, Youth, which screened in competition at the Cannes film festival on May 20. There are brilliant flourishes here that could only have come from Sorrentino: superb swooping camera moves, grotesque faces and angular perspectives, and it always watchable. Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Caine) and film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) discuss old flames, their children, and the activities of the assortment of guests holidaying in Switzerland.

Caine cut to the point. “The only alternative to playing elderly people is playing dead people,” the 82-year-old actor said. “So I picked elderly people.” “Youth” is in competition for the Palme d’Or here. But it’s beset with Sorrentino’s occasional fanboy weakness for pop-star cameos — Paloma Faith appears here, playing herself and not earning her keep. Keitel is a film director hard at work on his next movie, while Caine is a former orchestra conductor who refuses to come out of retirement, even at the behest of the Queen. Youth has a wan eloquence and elegance, though freighted with sentimentality and a strangely unearned and uninteresting macho-geriatric regret for lost time, lost film projects, lost love and all those beautiful women that you never got to sleep with. The title has literary resonances with Conrad and Tolstoy, but the youth evoked is mostly that of young women and young women’s bodies, whose allure never fades for men as they get older.

Caine, whether wandering the hills with Keitel, swimming with Miss Universe or helping young violinists improve their style, gives his best performance in decades. Forty-nine years ago he starred in Alfie, which won the Special Jury Prize and earned an Oscar nomination for the actor. “Alfie won a prize and I didn’t so I never came back,” he said with a grin.

Caine, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in real life, said he had once been seated next to her at a dinner, where she asked him if he knew any jokes. “I said, ‘None that I could tell you,’” Mr. Caine tells his distraught and recently separated daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz): “Music is all I understand, you don’t need words and experience to understand it, it just is.” The same could be said about the structure of this filmic symphony. There is also an LA movie actor Boyle (Paul Dano), another sufferer from that popular condition: self-congratulatory cynicism, who is preparing for a certain historical role, and astonishes everyone at the spa by appearing one morning in full costume and makeup.

Music has always been a strong element of Paolo Sorrentino’s films: the magnificent dance scene at the start of The Great Beauty; and in This Must be The Place, Sean Penn’s role as a wealthy rock star bored by retirement. The two old guys, Mick and Fred, go into a kind of arthouse version of Statler and Waldorf, and they stroll around the grounds, grumping away, torturing themselves by whingeing about their prostate worries and perving over the current Miss Universe (Madalina Diana Ghenea) who has won a stay here as part of her prize and turns out to be smarter than anyone thought. There has already been much comment online to the effect that Caine is playing the kind of role that might otherwise have gone to Sorrentino’s longtime collaborator Toni Servillo, and it’s true that Caine’s air of sticken ennui does remind you of Servillo. Asked why he made Caine’s character a conductor, Sorrentino said he just thought it sounded like an interesting job. “It’s my ignorance that made me opt for this choice,” he said, adding: “They wave their hands around; whether just to look good I don’t know.” Caine practiced four weeks on a key scene that shows him conducting — perhaps in flashback; wouldn’t want to say if the Queen gets her way.

Caine on the need to keep working. “For me this movie called ‘Youth’ says something that I very much agree with: that age is a question of attitude,” she said. “You remain young and vital in your spirit when you have passion in your life and I do and the film does.” “Youth” is Mr. The ultimate compliment on his performance came when “the lead violinist came up to me at the end and said, ‘You’re better than the guy we had last week.’ ” Asked if he minds playing elderly characters, Caine said it beats playing dead ones.

There are a series of musical interludes with songs ranging from pop classics to opera with Palamo Faith, Mark Kozelek and Sumi Jo all playing themselves. When the action cuts to memories and fantasies of Venice, where Fred conducted an orchestra, the film suddenly comes alive with power and movement: there is a stunning tableau of St Mark’s Square underwater. He remembers some confusion a number of years ago when he was sent a script and thought he’d be reading for the part of the lover, only to be told they wanted him as the dad. Even a very quick scene with Jane Fonda losing her temper on a plane frees things up a bit: but mostly we are drifting around the handsome facilities and grounds of this sumptuous but weirdly soulless open prison with its massages and its heated pools.

It was then he realized: “I wasn’t going to get the girl any more, but I was going to get the part.” As to appearing shirtless and laid out on a massage table in Youth, he said: “It didn’t matter to me because it’s the only body I’ve got.” Besides, he said, scenes like that send a message to the young: “This is what’s going to happen to you. So don’t get too smart about it.” Caine will always be remembered for the womanizing Alfie, just as Fonda noted that she remains associated with Barbarella, a classic great-bad movie from the same era in which she played a sexy astronaut. “It stuck to me. It is an idea which is more terrifying than piquant: more disturbing, arguably, than anything Mastroianni’s director faced in 8 ½ — though he himself had youth more or less on his side.

And that’s all I have to say.” “If I had to play Alfie again I’d certainly be able to do it,” said Caine, “but an 82-year-old Alfie wouldn’t be quite as virile.” Besides which he’s also cultivated a new generation of fans. “I’m Batman’s butler. This is France of course, the home of auteur cinema, which dictates that films are a representation of the director, and never does it appear to be truer than here. Keitel as “a pair of strained artists approaching 80 and moaning about their dwindling prospects,” the film gave the actors “their best material in years.” In a plot twist reminiscent of “Birdman,” Paul Dano plays Jimmy Tree, an actor trying to live down a role in an action film. Most bizarre are the fictional representations of real-life characters who infatuate him, including surreal musings on Diego Maradona, Hitler, a levitating Buddhist and a veiled Arab woman.

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