Provocative Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino reunites with his Il Divo star Toni Servillo for this portrait of a world-weary journalist searching for his long-lost idealism while drifting through the dolce vita of Rome’s high spots and fleshpots.
The Great Beauty
Paolo Sorrentino's work becomes freer and more daring with each film he makes. Il Divo, his brilliant, kaleidoscopic portrait of the politician Giulio Andreotti, and This Must Be the Place, a film about a man roaming the world in search of his past, were bold, individualistic pieces of cinema. From the striking opening shot of his new film — a shell being blasted from a cannon, followed by the party of all parties set above Rome's Colosseum — we know we are in for a special ride. Sorrentino's subject extends well beyond the crisis his sixty-five-year-old protagonist is undergoing, for The Great Beauty is determined to look into the very soul of Italy.
Concentrating on world-weary journalist Jep Gambardella as his cipher and muse, Sorrentino scrapes away the veneer of this character to explore his disappointments, not just as a failed novelist who never married and has no children, but also as a man who has surrendered to cynicism. Whilst remembering moments of purity in his past, he also admits to the compromises he has made and the emptiness that surrounds him.
Compulsive partying, shallow conversations,
and casual sex keep the void at bay,
but Jep is too sensitive to his plight to enjoy
these diversions without self-awareness.
As Sorrentino's camera moves through a
nocturnal Rome, after the parties and the
conversations are over, it settles on the
timeless beauty of the city's monuments
and statues, which act as wordless reminders
of a different kind of past. The Great
Beauty is a grand indictment of a man,
and a society, that has lost its way. Toni
Servillo, as always, dazzles in the lead role,
serving Sorrentino's grandly ambitious