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— John Travolta, Face/Off

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The Best of Youth is an Italian family epic. It’s got the same pace of life as Once Upon a Time in America or 1900, and it’s got the same emotional drama as Antonia’s Line.

The Miramax two-disc DVD has no extra features
The Miramax two-disc DVD has no extra features

The six-hour film (told in two parts) follows two brothers, Matteo and Nicola, who are just finishing their first year of college. They have a road trip to Norway planned but at the last minute, Matteo changes the plans. Thinking he can save a girl from the asylum where he works, he takes her to see her father, throwing their European vacation — and their lives — off course.

In the ensuing life-long drama, there are weddings, births, funerals, obstacles, betrayals, triumphs, and many reunions, all set against the backdrop of recent Italian politics and history.

DVD Extras

The Miramax two-disc DVD has no extra features. TheDVDetective in Boulder — (303) 494-3993 — says that there are at least two other DVD releases with extra features. The Italian release has interviews, but no English subtitles. The Hong Kong release is a four-disc set with a small set of extra features, but it does offer dts sound.

Picture and Sound

Two brothers growing up through the sixties and seventies
Two brothers growing up through the sixties and seventies

Surprisingly, the picture had noticeable (though not pronounced) signs of film damage. There are flashes of dust and scratches throughout the first disc. Whether the print was cleaner toward the end, or whether I was more engrossed and less observant, I can’t say. Nevertheless, the overall picture quality is very good. When I saw the film projected at a theater, there were two or three scenes that showed video pixelation and distortion, even though the movie was shot on 16mm film. At home, these flaws had disappeared completely.

Sound quality is very good as well. There isn’t a lot happening in the rear speakers, but music plays an important part in the movie, and it fills the room when appropriate.

Adapted from an essay originally published by Turner Classic Movies