The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)

December 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Early in this film, the central character, Jep (Italian star, Toni Servillo) states that Faulkner had always wanted to write a novel about nothing. He references this again near the end. One is tempted to imagine that this is director Paolo Sorrentino’s sly commentary about his own film. Yet, there is something more going on here. Much of the first part of the movie is a flashy explosion of excess: visually, musically, morally. The film appears to be a commentary on superficiality and style over substance in modern Rome. However, in the last hour of this 142 minute journey, the tone begins shifting dramatically. By the end, the mood is nostalgic, melancholic, elegiac and almost spiritual. The shift is all encompassing; the look of the film, the sounds, scenes, dialogue, lighting and message are all different and the effect was provocative. I loved Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” which also starred Servillo; his imagery is always colorful, creative and evocative. Every scene in this movie was a visual feast, even if the meaning of the scene itself was not clear and, unfortunately, that happened too often.  I wonder if the meaning of the film is clearer to native Italian speakers because I definitely have a sense that Sorrentino is trying to say something, even if I am not always clear what it is. As a result, I was taken on a beautiful, emotional and confusing ride.  I did not understand it but I like how it left me feeling.

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