Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Great Beauty aka La Grande Bellezza (2013)


Jep Gambardella: This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah... It's all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah... Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don't deal with what lies beyond. Therefore... let this novel begin. After all... it's just a trick. Yes, it's just a trick.

This film was made to remind us of what we all forget to appreciate; beauty. Raw, extravagant, extraordinary, magnificent, omniposcent beauty. It's all around. Just sometimes we do not stand still to glorify it. Paolo Sorrentino made this film to help us remember the beauty in everything. From the silliest of conversations to the most magnanimous piece of art. 

'The Great Beauty' is about journalist Jep Gambardella, who has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and caf├ęs to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. (source:

Pay close attention to the word 'absurd' in the description above, since it plays a key part in Sorrentino's film. The film is stylized in such a way that one cannot help but make the comparison between Fellini's masterpiece '8 1/2'. The visually stunning spectacle of Rome's landscape and the high society represented in both film is simply inescapable. From Rome in 1963 to Rome 2013 we see that 'the artist' is still struggling with himself to find his inner peace. 

Sorrentino cast Toni Servillo as his leading man, the tortured soul of the artist who goes from one luxury party to another, from one great hedonistic adventure to another all the while feeding us with the absurdism that surrounds still this modern society. In this journey of self discovery and inner peace there comes the brilliance in Servillo's acting; the haunted man, who finds little pleasure from the high end lifestyle he was so far leading, searching and yearning for a greater beauty.

Speaking in visual terms Sorrentino has drew great imitations from Fellini's Roman filmmaking, 'La Dolce Vita' and '8 1/2', all equipped with the glitz and the glamour of the decadance of the elite; the high society who circles its prey until they are left hollow and with no purpose in life, aimlessly wandering trying to find what it's all about. This point Sorrentino cleverely gives us a glimpse of what that hollowness feels and tastes like after years of endless extravaganza. 

The film however, tends to become somewhat of a long and tedious journey of an artist's search of his inner psyche, that at the end concludes into a nothingness of air; in other words as sarcastic as Sorrentino is trying to be about how vain our small little lives are, his visual eye seems to drift and strecth so much that it can easy pass on as nothing more than a story of surrealistic narrative. 

Despite its wombly bits, this film aims to rekindle a long forgotten bond between past and present, drawing to an open conclusion of what is real beauty in the end for each person. 

An excellent submission from Italy for this year's Academy Awards and from the looks of it this might be getting the dear old Uncle Oscar in the end, since it is truly a marvel to watch the evocative restless spirit of Servillo on the big screen. 


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