[David Fellerath of the Independent Weekly serves up his usual dose of occasional Friday Film Blogging -- a day early!]

For movie-lovers in the NC Triangle, today is the last day to catch the theatrical run of an extraordinary film. It's an Italian political and family epic called The Best of Youth and it is - get ready - six hours long. Originally conceived as a mini-series for Italian television, it's being shown at the Galaxy Cinema in two three-hour installments. (My Indy review will be posted here shortly.)

The Best of Youth is a sweeping trip through the last 40 years of Italian history, told through the experiences of one likable middle-class Roman family. Starting with the political idealism of the mid-1960s and the growing counterculture, the film takes us through the Red Brigade period of the 1970s, social reform of the 1980s and the prosecution of the Sicilian Mafia in the 1990s. The two principals are brothers Matteo and Nicola, and the film functions as something of a companion piece to Bernardo Bertolucci's (admittedly more spectacular and politically sophisticated) 1900, which was a five-hour epic of the first half of Italy's 20th century.

The Best of Youth isn't perfect, but as a sprawling family epic it's absolutely irresistible. While some viewers may be disappointed in the story's eventual retreat into domesticity at the expense of political fervor, the gradual softening of its tone mirrors the inevitable process of disillusionment that is an inherent part of living.

Those looking for other Italian films in a similar vein may want to seek out, in addition to 1900, Bertolucci's Before the Revolution (a personal favorite that stars Adriana Asti, who also stars in The Best of Youth) and The Conformist, De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and Visconti's The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers.