Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: La Grande Bellezza
Italy/France, 2013. Indigo Film, Medusa Film, Babe Film, Pathé, France 2 Cinéma, Mediaset, Canal+, Ciné+, France Télévisions, Regione Lazio, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Banca Popolare di Vicenza, Lazio Film Commission, Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Biscottificio Verona. Story by Paolo Sorrentino, Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello. Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi. Produced by Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano. Music by Lele Marchitelli. Production Design by Stefania Cella. Costume Design by Daniela Ciancio. Film Editing by Cristiano Travaglioli.
Paolo Sorrentino turns his camera on the ritzy citizens of Rome’s high society for an update of La Dolce Vita that begins where Fellini’s film ended off: rather than a soul degraded by the discovery of banality beneath a world that was originally so seductive, we start with a journalist (Toni Servillo, whose entrance is one of the greatest character reveals in the last decade) who is already well aware of the superficiality he devotes his life to. Servillo wrote a book decades earlier and never bothered to follow it up, and is perpetually haunted by a love affair that remains the cause of his romantic disillusionment. His journey, which takes us through a series of glamorous parties and restaurants, wining and dining a few lovely ladies and even a nifty plastic surgeon whose consultation plays more like a papal confession, is focused more on the possibility that even when we resign ourselves to the pointlessness of it all, can we really remove the desire to look for something significant? Sorrentino’s film couldn’t possibly be more attractive or exciting, but given that its style is its substance and its devotion to celebrating shallowness is its purpose, the experience won’t necessarily make a deep impact with all of its viewers. Like Fellini’s masterpiece (and somewhat like Satyricon as well), it plays out in picaresque episodes, unfortunately saving one of its less interesting tales for last, but there’s no denying how fascinating and fun it is, not to mention how humorous it is to find out that this world’s obsessions with money, sex and religion have neither changed their intensity or methods in fifty years.
The Criterion Collection: #702
Academy Award: Best Foreign Language Film
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
European Film Awards: Best European Film; Best European Actor (Toni Servillo); Best European Director (Paolo Sorrentino); Best European Editor
Nomination: Best European Screenwriter
Golden Globe Award: Best Foreign Language Film
Toronto International Film Festival: 2013