The Great Beauty (4 stars)

The Great Beauty

A long, sprawling, Fellini-esque portrait of modern Rome by Paolo Sorrentino

Paolo Sorrentino dares to court comparison with maestro Federico Fellini in The Great Beauty, a sprawling, virtuoso fresco of modern Rome that feels like a 21st century companion piece to La Dolce Vita. The lush visual elegance that has become a Sorrentino trademark is well deployed as the camera snakes through a city populated by the rich and famous, wearily drifting towards yet another party in search of something, anything, that will inject excitement into their dull evening or lend meaning to their vacuous lives.

The film offers an exhausting but often exhilarating wallow in the decadence of a doomed society but it is served with a hint of admiration for the sheer grotesque spectacle of it all. Our guide through the whole gaudy circus is jaded writer and incorrigible party animal Jep Gambardella, played with wry, world-weary aplomb by Toni Servillo. The dapper Jep once wrote an acclaimed novel but has never found the energy to repeat the feat. Now, he dabbles in journalism as the kind of society columnist and commentator who is welcomed in all the best places.

Plunging into Jep’s world we witness the corruption of the church, the pretensions of the glitterati, the hollow dazzle of fame, the fading grandeur of impoverished aristocrats and the whole infuriating mess of the way we live now in the developed world. It is a modern cinematic echo of Proust or Lampedusa as it captures the dying light of a disappearing world. 

The Great Beauty is way too long and positively infatuated with excess in its ravishing visuals and hysterical emotional drive and yet it lingers in the imagination long after more disciplined, well-behaved films have faded.

Limited release from Fri 6 Sep.

Festival de Cannes (2013) - The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) Teaser Trailer HD

The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • Italy / France
  • 2h 22min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
  • Cast: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli
  • UK release: 6 September 2013

The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today's Rome.