The annotated family album as social history, or vice versa, The Best of Youth is another thick spine on the top shelf of Italian cine-novels. Covering nearly 40 years in a remarkably compact six hours, Marco Tullio Giordana's fleet-footed marathon seeks a country's whole equation among the intellectual middle-class Caratis of Rome while keeping to the tempos of family routine and reunion. The Best of Youth derives its formidable energies from the same yin-yang sibling dynamic as its direct antecedents: Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers and Gianni Amelio's The Way We Laughed. Beaming, jocular Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio) and sensitive, tightly coiled Matteo (Alessio Boni, who bears a striking resemblance to the young Clint Eastwood), born a year apart, are university students when we meet them in 1966. Matteo volunteers at a clinic for the mentally ill, where he encounters Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca), an obvious victim of botched electroshock treatment; with his brother's help, Matteo tries and fails to return Giorgia to her rural relations. The Best of Youth's approach to history is both head-on and sidelong, variously enfolding the tumultuous protests and terrorist activity of the '70s, the 1992 Palermo massacre, and assorted World Cup agonies and ecstasies. But Giordana ably shoulders his influences, paying homage to Rocco in his lengthy staging of a decisive New Year's Eve party and its blood-freezing- aftermath. As in Visconti and Amelio's brotherly disquisitions, a submerged yet implacable fury simmers throughout, but here the violence is finally turned inward.
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