The Great Beauty (2013)

PAOLO SORRENTINO

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original title:  La Grande Bellezza

Italy/France, 2013.  Indigo Film, , Babe Film, Pathé, France 2 Cinéma, , 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, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 2013.  Cannes Film Festival 2013.  Golden Globe Awards 2013.  Independent Spirit Awards 2013. New York Film Critics Awards 2013. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2013. Online Film Critics Awards 2013.  Toronto International Film Festival 2013.

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 (, 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.

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