The Great Beauty

Paolo-Sorrentino-The-Great-Beauty-winner-european-film-awards-2013-cover

Here we are,15 years after Benigni’s “Beautiful Life“, another Italian movie, ” The Great Beauty” won the Oscar for the best foreign language film. It was a very much expected award, at least outside these borders, as the movie is the rare product of the combination of an extremely talented director Paolo Sorrentino, a masterly interpretation of Tony Servillo as Jep Gambardella and the most amazing actress ever: Rome.

elfilm-com-the-great-beauty-261997Rome has a double symbology here: it’s the breathtaking  “great beauty” with its architecture, churches, fountains, cloisters, squares that Sorrentino skillfully uses as a never-ending sequence of postcards to enthrall the spectators; but Rome is also the capital, the centre of power and the Vatican, the higher expression of moral degradation and spiritual decay, which attracts and deceives the vast multitudes of gross people who come here with the hope to find that something that may give sense to their hollowness. Beauty and vulgarity, dream and bitter realism overlap, and Rome is there, indifferent and beautiful.

partThis double symbology is soon introduced by Sorrentino. In fact the movie opens on a group of Japanese holidaymakers who are listening to their guide’s explanations. One of them leaves his friends to admire in silence the stunning view of the town and he is so overwhelmed by its beauty to die. Soon after Sorrentino takes us to the crowded, opulent  party which celebrates Jep Gambardella‘s 65th birthday, the central character of the movie . Like the Great Gatsby he makes his appearance after several minutes of frantic dances with the hypnotizing soundtrack of the famous Italian icon Raffaella Carrà. Jep had arrived in Rome in his late twenties and he had been soon absorbed by the jet-set party life. Jep is a journalist and writer of only one novel, which had become a best seller. Even if in some aspects he seems to evoke the character of Marcello Mastroianni in “la Dolce Vita“, his approach to life is more disenchanted and detached. He is the impassive spectator of the vacuous depressive humanity who surrounds him and finds in amusement, the only way to forget the failures and the senselessness of their lives.

ferilliIn my opinion Sorrentino is largely indebted  toTony Servillo, who took part in almost all of his movies and is a sort of “fetish actor” for him. Charismatic and touching at the same time, Servillo ranges from a sarcastic to an introspective tone with his snobbish Neapolitan accent, with the result that you cannot but hang on every word he says as if hypnotized. The cast is particularly rich, as many famous Italian actors wanted to be part of the movie even only for a “cameo”, a short appearance. However two of them, Sabrina Ferilli e Carlo Verdone, who are very popular here,seem to have been quite disappointed when they knew that hadn’t been invited to the Oscar night. I can understand them.

I have to say that “The Great Beauty” has been more appreciated by the critics abroad than here. The dreamlike narrative tone, the nonsensical characters and the homage to the Eternal City have seemed nothing but a revival of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita“, “Roma“, “Otto e Mezzo” and many others. Even after the victory, criticism hasn’t stopped. Ah, envy!

If you want to see of the locations of the Great Beauty click on the link.

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25 thoughts on “The Great Beauty

  1. I have not seen the movie but after your review am intrigued. I appreciated the inclusion of the link to the map of the locations. We have a couple of days in Rome in September before our cycling trip. Perhaps we can explore some of these.

  2. I just came back from my first ever trip to Italy (including, of course, Rome), and already I cannot wait to revisit, even if through a movie like “The Great Beauty.” It’s really interesting to learn that Italian critics can be jaded with the movie’s homage to Rome. Thank you for the review. I would love to watch the film and also return to “La Dolce Vita” with a new set of post-Roma eyes.

      • I don’t think I’ve seen enough to give a well-justified answer, but if I had to choose from my very limited experience, it’d have to be Firenze or Roma… What I do know for sure is that a trip to Italy certainly is life-changing! 🙂

    • Your friend is right, the scenery and Tony Servillo are the keys of success of this movie but if don’t like Fellini’s style of narration, it will be hard to follow the movie till the end. My husband didn’t. 😉

  3. Hello… Thanks for spreading your opinions as regard to the movie. It seems intiguing and captivating and your review was very well written. I love european movies so I´ll keep it in mind. Best wishes; Aquileana 🙂

    (PS: Have you seen one or more of the movies that have recently won the Oscar… And if yes, which one to you suggest me to watch first?. Thank You)

    • Hi, it’s always a pleasure to have you here. I saw some films, the one with Maryl Streep bored me to death, maybe I would start with “The Wolf of New York” with Di Caprio. Let me know if you see something you like.
      Cheers.
      Stefy

  4. We really didn’t keep up with movies this year . . . for a lot of personal reasons. Now, after reading your review, I’m not sure if I want to add this to the list or not.

  5. First class review. I saw the film last year and was captivated by it emotionally and intellectually (as far as my mind stretches anyway). Delighted that it won. In our Sheffield (England) audience, four people walked out. I would have been almost as happy if The Hunt had won. That was a fine film too.

    • Hi, sorry for delay and thank you for stopping by. Even if I loved the film, I can understand the four people that walked out, as the narrating pace is a little slow. Cheers. Stefy.

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