All this mystical ooglety-booglety is handled straightforwardly and completely without camp. It's difficult to describe the tone of Youth Without Youth, which is based on a novella by Romanian philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade (who was a bit of a Nazi himself, but that's another story). Despite scene after scene of maddeningly arcane dialogue ("In metaphysical antinomies, empirical proofs lose their value," Dominic's double tells him solemnly), the movie remains lyrical, emotionally engaging, and a pleasure to watch. You can laugh at Coppola's pretensions, but he's clearly in dialogue (however haltingly) with directors like Bertolucci, Visconti, and Tarkovsky, who saw no reason that film shouldn't take on the big questions right alongside literature and philosophy. Even Alexandra Maria Lara's sad-eyed, gazellelike beauty recalls that of an actress from the heyday of European art film—Monica Vitti or Dominique Sanda.
On my first (and only so far) viewing of Youth Without Youth, I didn't like it too much. it was bogged down and seemed overly cerebral to me without meaningful heart or emotional provocation. But the more I think about it, the more I want to see it again. This kind of film has so much in deep references to philosophical questions that it hard enough just to try and follow it. But having done that now, I think I could enjoy it much more.
By the way, Bertolucci also took a long hiatus from making films, like Copolla, and came back with his recent The Dreamers, a beautiful film.