Yuletide Youth, Hold the Sugar

If you missed the gracefully complex six-hour Italian saga The Best of Youth when it enjoyed a critically acclaimed run in arthouse theaters in 2005, the Sundance Channel has picked it up for a Christmas-week airing over four nights from Tuesday to Friday. Until it made an award-winning splash at Cannes and earned a theatrical run, Marco Tullio Giordana’s intimate epic of four decades in the lives of the educated, middle-class Carati family was originally intended for television viewing — so there’s no need to feel as if you’re lacking some sweeping big-screen experience. In fact, the lived-in generosity and up-close emotions of the tale Giordana tells benefit from a living-room viewing: This is novelistic narrative that hews to the time line of human hearts, not the big, history-defining events that inevitably touch their lives (and sometimes overpower more cinema-minded epics). Amid the usual yuletide-themed programming that seems to want to cram sugary household unity down our throats, four nights of the leisurely paced, unforced The Best of Youth, which delicately and unmelodramatically spins strands of family turbulence along with politics, brotherhood, tragedy and wisdom into a surprisingly rich quilt of love and acceptance — has to be considered a brilliant counter-programming move this holiday season. And if you’re spending Christmas somewhere cold, those warm, blue Italian vistas from Turin to Palermo will also do the trick.

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