Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: "The Great Beauty" is" La grande bellezza"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

[A version of this review was first posted on Patreon.]

The Great Beauty (2013)
La grande bellezza – original title
Country: Italy/France
Running time:  141 minutes (2 hours, 21 minutes)
Not rated by the MPAA
DIRECTOR:  Paolo Sorrentino
WRITERS:  Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello; from a story by Paolo Sorrentino
PRODUCERS:  Francesca Cima and Nicola Giuliano
EDITOR:  Cristiano Travagl
COMPOSER:  Lele Marchitelli
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Pamela Villoresi, Galatea Ranzi, Franco Graziosi, Giorgio Pasotti, Sonia Gessner, Luca Marinelli, Serena Grandi, Vernon Dobtcheff, Giovanna Vignola, Isabella Ferrari, and Giusi Merli

La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) is a 2013 drama from director Paolo Sorrentino.  The Great Beauty is an Italian and French co-production, and as a representative of Italy, it won the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” for the year 2013.  The film was released to U.S. theaters in 2014.  The Great Beauty follows a writer through timeless and beautiful Rome as he takes stock of his life after he receives a shock from the past.

The Great Beauty focuses on Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist and socialite living in Rome.  He has lived a lavish life in Rome since he moved to the city as a 26-year-old.  Once upon a time, Jep wrote an acclaimed and well-received novel, The Human Apparatus.  While people awaited a second novel, Jep lived a comfortable life of writing about about celebrities and of throwing parties for celebrities and socialites in his fancy luxury apartment.

After his 65th birthday, Jep receives some shocking news about an old girlfriend.  He walks through the side of Rome that is a timeless landscape of absurd beauty and exquisite antiquity.  He reflects on his life and the sense that he is unfulfilled, as he encounters various characters.

The Great Beauty is indeed a great beauty.  The audience follows Jep Gambardella through parts of Rome that are tourist destinations or are either museums or sections of palatial estates.  I could recommend The Great Beauty for the absurd beauty of the film's settings and locales, alone.

As for the film's narrative:  it would be too easy to say that the specter of death hangs over the film.  The theme of growing old permeates the film, and also most of the characters seem to be yearning for more of something in their lives, even if more of what they want is bad for them.  Their lives are emotionally and spiritually empty.  I think the idea is that Jep has drifted through the last four decades of his life without realizing that he needs to establish roots.

I think that The Great Beauty encourages people to realize that beauty comes in fits and flashes between long stretches of what is ugly and banal in life; don't chase the superficial prettiness could be a tag line for the movie.  Still, the parties depicted in this film look pretty good, and the apartments and houses are just lovely.  I enjoyed Jep Gambardella's journey, although it meanders at times, but once again, the beauty in The Great Beauty is just so... beautiful.  This visual splendor alone makes this a truly exceptional film.

9 of 10

Friday, July 31, 2015

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2014 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year” (Italy)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Italy)

2014 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Film not in the English Language” (Paolo Sorrentino, Nicola Giuliano, and Francesca Cima)

2013 Cannes Film Festival:  1 nomination: “Palme d'Or: (Paolo Sorrentino)

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