The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty ★★½

Ok, well, we are 20 minutes in and I can say this: I don't know if I can stick with it for more than another 10-20 minutes. I mean I'm going to give it a shot but it is against my better judgment.

I hate, I mean I HATE the way all the shots look staged. Nothing out of place. A shot of a building facade with oranges on the floor, oranges on the floor?, all equidistant and made to look haphazard. That sort of thing drives me batty. To boot the film so far is all about partying (who cares), an odd looking older man repeating "I'm going to Fuck you" at a woman dancing on a stage; a dwarf woman walking amongst just-so properly placed glasses of wine on the floor at the end of the party saying "guys?", and a Japanese tourist taking a picture then collapsing to his death. That's the opening 20 minutes. Maybe I could wash the floors or something rather than watch the rest? Must I finish every film just because? Ok, enough of this. One must give a film a decent chance. Say, 30 min? 45 min? That seems fair before abandoning.

Unless someone knows if the 30 second bunny re-enactment has been made yet? Surely watching that instead could count for something?

I finished it. Jonathan walked out a few minutes after restarting, when the naked arteeste tried to walk through a concrete wall. I must confess I wanted to hit that stop button pretty bad myself, but I didn't. Good thing because 2 minutes later the film really began, with our lead character interviewing the arteeste, basically putting her in her place. What a relief. This is how it is going to play out then; all the excess and ridiculousness is to be exposed as the idiocy that it is. I can rest easy (Thanks Double-Dubs and Laurence).

The thing is it's more of the same throughout the entire runtime. There are subtleties to be sure, and some references I know I didn't understand. There were also other references I can't understand because I wouldn't even know where to begin to look for their source. I'm not a fan of that sort of thing because I can't tell if I am the one who is stupid or the film maker is one gigantic genius and way too deep for me. The other option is that I am looking at one
seriously pretentious person who is quite clever at disguising that he isn't saying anything at all.

In this case I'm putting it down to my ignorance of Italian culture, including Italian films. Perhaps I will revisit this film in a decade or two to see if my appreciation has increased. What I can say, though, is that while I may have missed many of the allusions to various cultural phenomena, I was a bit let-down by the general thesis of the film which seems to be nothing more than: it's the simplicity of life that is beautiful. I don't know what kind of book our main character is supposed to have written in the past, but if he is only discovering this truth at the age of 65, I can only imagine that his book is as full of itself as the arteeste crashing into the wall.

While some of the film, most in fact, is quite beautiful to look at, and while some of the images are quite striking, I can't quite muster the enthusiasm for a film that shows a 65 year old finally discovering that there is more to life than parties and sex and intellectuals and statues and museums and music and books.

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