Saturday saw the world premiere of the first film by Francis Ford Coppola in a decade, Youth Without Youth, at the Rome Film Festival. Immediate reaction was "mixed," according to The Associated Press, basing their comments on "an earlier screening for the press," which evidently prompted Coppola to say: "Part of being an artist who wants to look at new areas of [is knowing that] it will take a while for people to be familiar with the film. I only ask that you think my film was interesting." The AP story stated in part: "Coppola asked people to take their time and see it more than once"; though that's not a direct quote from the director, it's a one-liner that's been picked up by many other outlets.

Variety also described the reaction as "mixed," stating: "Deeply divided opinions zinged through the halls of Rome's Auditorium Parco Della Musica, the fest's hub." So far, though, I've only been able to find four English reviews online: the three trades (all negative) and one experienced critic (positive). Clearly, it's too early to dismiss the film out of hand based on just four opinions, especially in view of Coppola's non-mainstream approach to an esoteric subject.

Jay Weissberg of Variety found it "overly talky" with "mishmash plotting and [a] stilted script," lacking "the kind of Eastern European magical realism that would have made it resonate." Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a muddled fantasy." He continued: "Lacking coherence and suspense, the picture is likely to attract a cult following while disappointing Coppola's fan base," which confused me, as I would think that Coppola's fan base is no bigger than a cult nowadays. The review in Screen Daily, as quoted by Sasha Stone at Awards Daily, described it as "an amateur production in the true sense of the word ... overall it is a jumble of half-baked metaphysical musings and disjointed story threads."

The positive review came from Emanuel Levy: "This challenging, complex, provocative, richly-dense but utterly uncommercial, film demands concentration due to its non-linear text and lack of conventional characters. Which means that it will not only sharply divide film critics, but also face hard time bringing audiences to see it." Really, none of this should be surprising, since way back in early September, A. O. Scott of The New York Times introduced his interview with the director by referring to the film as "a complex, symbol-laden meditation on the nature of chronology, language and human identity." Yet he also said "It bristles with restless, perhaps overreaching intellectual ambition, and without being overtly autobiographical, it feels intensely and earnestly personal." I can't wait for the critical debate to begin in earnest. Youth Without Youth opens in the US on December 14, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.