Owen Hughes’s review published on Letterboxd:
An Italian film and winner of best foreign film at the Oscars recently - much to some bafflement considering everyone thought the excellent The Hunt, starring Mads Mikkelsen, was going to win it. It's directed by Paolo Sorrentino (This Must Be The Place) and stars Toni Servillo (who was in a few other Sorrentino films, but also in Gamorrah but I have no recollection of him in that) as a retired writer/artist called Jep who wanders around Rome. And... that's pretty much it.
I remember reading a review not too long ago, and how the writer wasn't particularly impressed with it, so I did expect it to be a bit irritatingly pretentious, maybe a bit up its own arse. However, I thought it was brilliant. I think, rather knowingly, it deals with that whole potential pretentiousness issue very early on when Jep brings an "artist" to tears by winding her up about the "vibrations" that she supposedly lives for. When she struggles to explain what these vibrations actually are, he demolishes her with his wit and it's fucking superb. Similarly, later on in the film during a small late night party, he is pretty much forced to tell some awkward truths about his friend and its delivered with such panache, with some fantastic writing, that it's just fantastic to watch.
Aside from Jep's effortless coolness and swagger, he has his own personal issues. He seems to be struggling to find the beauty in life, something to inspire him, as he drifts from one moment to the next. The way he interacts with his surroundings, how he virtually lives to consume and digest Rome, is a joy to watch. He is Rome. A reflection of its people and places, unveiling the real truths behind the many contented untruths. I think I loved this aspect of the film more than any other. He was like a living embodiment of a time and place.
As much as I liked The Hunt and was kind of gutted that it didn't win an Oscar, in hindsight, The Great Beauty was a worthy winner.