THE GREAT BEAUTY (La grande bellezza, Italy, 2013)

beauty1 Greetings again from the darkness. This is Italy’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Film of 2013. If it wasn’t such a beautiful film to watch, a fun game of spot the Italian director influence could be played. Director Paolo Sorrentino owes much to Fellini and La dolce vita, but this is more than a tribute. Sorrentino shows great style and insight, and his commitment to camera angles, movement, colors, textures and faces are quite something to behold.

Toni Servillo plays Jep Gambardella, a man celebrating his 65th birthday by doing what he does most every night … beauty3partying with his group of intellectual friends. Jep had a successful novel published in his 20’s and has since worked sporadically as a journalist, but has never again focused on his writing. One can’t help but notice the similarities to Marcello Mastroianni in La dolce vita, but Jep is jolted with news that sends him flashing back to his younger years and his one true love.  Especially satisfying are the numerous shots of what makes Rome such an enchanting city.  The historical sites and beautiful sculptures and fountains provide quite the contrast to the startling appearance of the party goers.

beauty2 Much of the story includes Roman decadence, and it can easily be viewed as the decline of Roman civilization both past and present. See, Jep’s apartment overlooks the famous ruins of The Colosseum. Even moreso, we get a nice conflict between uppity society and the all too important modern and conceptual art crowd. Toss in a few pot shots at the Vatican and Sorrentino seems to be telling us that everyone takes themselves entirely too seriously … even as we belittle and judge others. Whatever his true message, the sensory overload provided here could be a film class in camera style and is quite fun to watch.

watch the trailer:


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