Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Great Beauty

THE GREAT BEAUTY (LA GRANDE BELLEZZA, (2013). Jep Gambardella, a 65-year old journalist and once promising novelist, but now a high-end hack working for a publisher who happens to be a dwarf, lives his easy life among Rome's decadent high society in a swirl of rooftop parties and late-night soirees .... 
As he says: "When I came to Rome at the age of 26, I fell pretty swiftly into what might be defined as the whirl of the high life, but I didn't just want to live the high life, I wanted to be the king of the high life. I didn't just want to attend parties, I wanted the power to make them fail."
The Eternal City never looked as good as here and it certainly entrances director Paolo Sorrentino - his movie can't get enough of the city's palaces and gardens, its churches and crypts. Even the final credits takes one a long, languorous tour on a boat along the Tiber ... the church comes in for some satire too with the feature on the aged nun getting an award for living in poverty and who is now being feted by the high-living Romans. 

Storywise, there is little to relate, Jep gets momentarily shaken from the torpor of late middle-age by the news of the death of an old flame, but rather than vow to make more of what is left of his life, he embraces Latin languor and lethargy all the more. After a great start the movie, quite long at 139 minutes, seems listless and overlong  - but like its major influence, LA DOLCE VITA, it takes one into a trance-like state as yet another decadent party unfolds- Jep reminds one of Marcello observing the Roman decadence in the Fellini epic. It is a dazzling, dizzying and entrancing tour-de-force (one really feels one is at that long rooftop party early on) built around a stunning performance by Toni Servillo, in this sumptuously shot satire on Berlusconi's Italy that draws comparisons with Italian classics like LA DOLCE VITA and LA NOTTE. Its certainly a LA DOLCE VITA for the new age, 50 years on from Fellini.
Which brings us to the film's influences. Several times one is reminded of moments from Fellini's classic, with a dash of the mood and momentum of Antonioni, and the opulence of Visconti. It is also the best modern Italian film I have seen since I AM LOVE by Luca Guadagnino in 2009. Among its riches is a walk-on by Fanny Ardant. Sabrina Ferilli is compulsive as Jep's companion Ramona. The whole experience is another dazzler to give oneself up to - like THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and THE SKIN I LIVE IN, featured below. Certo! Below: Marcello Mastroianni in LA DOLCE VITA.

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