Youth Without Youth - five out of five stars
A great film score simultaneously transports you back to the cinema and stands on its own. Osvaldo Golijov claims he is not a movie composer, but for Francis Ford Coppola's first feature in a decade, he has written a great film score.
Coppola certainly knows from great film scores. His father, Carmine Coppola, was an esteemed musician who even scored a few of his son's films. The late Nino Rota's music was a vital part of the first two Godfather movies. And Coppola has a great ear for selecting music, making Richard Wagner and The Doors vital parts of Apocalypse Now. So being tapped to compose for Coppola has to be a humbling task.
But Golijov rises to it, delivering music as lush, dreamy and jarring as the film it accompanies. Based on a novella by Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade, Youth Without Youth is the story of a 70-year-old man who becomes young again and acquires extraordinary mental powers after being struck by lightning. Golijov's score is as diverse as you would expect for an Argentinian composer writing for a movie that takes place largely in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The music is augmented by indigenous instruments such as a Hungarian dulcimer and an Iranian spike fiddle. They provide intriguing contrasts to the Bucharest Metropolitan Orchestra, which performed the music. But the biggest thing that says Golijov, a Grammy-winning writer who frequently works with artists such as Kronos Quartet, is indeed a film composer are those purely orchestral passages that tell the story. Listen to the contrast between the aching beauty of Love Lost: Laura, a lament for the hero's failed engagement as a young man, and The Girl in Room 6, which suggests sinister nature of his hypersexual relationship with a woman who will betray him.
Youth Without Youth will never be as big as The Godfather. It's too thick and ambiguous for mass appeal. But for people who see it and embrace it, Golijov's music will be inseparable from the film, and this soundtrack recording may become inseparable from your ears.
Note: Youth Without Youth, the film, is currently scheduled to open in Lexington in late January.