The Great Beauty
Director and co-writer Paolo Sorrentino’s "The Great Beauty" ("La grande bellezza") won this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards.
As the title suggests, the film is gorgeous to watch (cinematography by Luca Bigazzi), and feels Fellini, celebrating smoking and sex, featuring a dwarf and a giraffe, deconstructing performance art and conga lines, commenting on Proust, Marxism, Botox and perhaps Silvio Berlusconi. Roman writer Jep Gembardella (the most interesting man in the world, Toni Servillo) has coasted on his first and only novel "The Human Apparatus," and couldn’t complete another because he was "looking for the great beauty and never found it."
Instead, he spent decades partying with the Eternal City’s "whirlpool of high society." His sixty-fifth birthday causes him to revisit his choices and his life, because, at that age, he "doesn’t want to waste time doing things I don’t want to do."
The overwrought dialogue (in Italian, with English subtitles and voiceovers) includes Jep’s declaration that he’s "not a misogynist, but a misanthrope," his advice to "never cry at a funeral and upstage the family’s grief" (which he promptly breaks), and his acknowledgment that "what lies beyond what lies beyond is not my concern."
The Criterion Collection two-DVD special edition includes a conversation between Sorrentino and Italian cultural critic Antonio Monda, and interviews with Servillo and co-screenwriter Umberto Contarello. The most interesting extra is the booklet "Dancing in Place" by distinguished essayist Phillip Lopate, who outlines Sorrentino’s biography and filmography and notes that the film is "a cautionary tale about the heedless pursuit of pleasure," or livin’ la dolce vita.
"The Great Beauty"