The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty ★★★★★

''We're all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little... Don't you agree?''

I come to La Grande Bellezza with the misfortune of having seen none Paolo Sorrentino's work, nor Fellini's La Dolce Vita which many claim it to be an ode to (amongst other Fellini works), but this could also be a blessing, as I have nothing to compare it to.

Luca Bigazzi's floating camera takes us on a rapturous adventure through all the nooks and crannies of Rome, through opulent residences, architecture and monuments of a bygone era, yet for all the wondrous beauty on display, there is a darkness and an underbelly that the camera does not turn a blind eye to. We inhabit the world of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo in a perfectly measured performance), who as just arrived at the age of 65 and is only just now starting to contemplate and question the emptiness of his aristocratic existence. He parties all night with his equally disillusioned companions, sleeps all day whilst the maid cleans house and charms his way through life as we walks the streets of his beloved city. This is a character study in the purest form, of a man who has lived off the acclaim of a novella he wrote 40 odd years ago, and though he has never been motivated to write again (one needs to live a life of meaning to be inspired to write something of substance, to find 'The Great Beauty' as it's referred to), it has nevertheless elevated him into artistic and literary circles in which he is a demi-god of sorts. The journey examines lost love, absent spirituality, hedonistic and materialistic excess in a nihilistic existential haze.

Whilst Fellini and other Italian auteurs are name dropped as inspiration, it has difficult to avoid comparison the narrative and visual aesthetic of Malick, with the dancing and party sequences having an inescapable Luhrmann quality. The auditory experience is a perfect compliment to the gorgeous visuals in every way, sweeping you up in a sensory explosion of light and sound. The comedy is balanced finely against the dramatic heft, with wild characters like the self-deprecating dwarf or the 104 year old saint with only her two front teeth remaining as just a smidgeon of what's on offer. A poignant and powerful masterpiece that rivals any film I have seen in 2013, as well as a film I will not hesitate to return to and share with others.

“Travel is very useful and it exercises the imagination. All the rest is disappointment and fatigue. Our own journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength.

It goes from life to death. People, animals, cities, things, all are imagined. It’s a novel, simply a fictitious narrative.”

Journey to the End of the Night by Céline

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