PHOTO BY MEDUSA FILM
THE GREAT BEAUTY
Where is it playing?: The Palm
What's it rated?: Not rated
What's it worth?: $10.00
Paolo Sorrentino (This Must Be the Place) co-writes and directs this story of Jep Gambardella, a 65-year-old journalist and lothario who for decades has enjoyed Rome’s night scene. But when his past returns to haunt him, he begins to see beyond the surface of his party lifestyle. (142 min.)
“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?”
Showcasing a crumbling and beautiful city, the fragility of the lives of its inhabitants, and the hypocrisy within its religious and artistic institutions, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty gives you a beautiful glimpse into the dualities of Rome’s “high life.”
In the opening scene, a massive rooftop gathering unfolds hypnotically as guests dance to pounding house music. Jep Gambardella is turning 65. An aging socialite, whose early success launched his life into a hedonistic spiral, tries to outweigh pain with pleasure. We follow Jep through out his meanderings in the eternal city, meeting characters such as the idolized neighbor masked in mystery, a child prodigy whose talents are worthy of exploitation, or even the religious elite who talk of nothing else but food. Their chaotic lives paint a complex view of life and the contradictions within us all, and each character and stereotype shown is much more complex and layered than the way they are first perceived.
With the aid of cinematographer Luca Bigazzi and editor Cristiano Travaglioli, these artists weave together a disjointed emotional journey with striking visuals, conveying many ideas and themes about life, love, and success. Held together by Jep's late night and early morning walks around a seemingly empty city, important moments come and go as important days often do. Conflicts go unresolved, and not everything makes sense.
Although surreal at times, this film speaks volumes of truth to its viewers. At times, reading the mass of hyper-cultured and educated dialogue can feel overwhelming while trying to pay attention to the beautiful imagery presented, but with a intriguing story and captivating visuals, this film is worth the watch, and may even require a second viewing.
You should see this movie if you enjoy the works of Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, Delicatessen), and Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita). Don't see this movie if you’re a very slow reader or you’re trying to quit smoking. (142 min.)
—Henry Bruington; New Times photographer