The Great Beauty (aka La Grande Bellezza) review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
Before I watched The Great Beauty I had already been told it would be a love it or hate it film and while I didn’t love it, I can’t say I hated it either. Sure the film is unbearably long at 140 minutes and there are scenes that contain nothing but ridiculous dancing but it’s also incredibly profound, shot in a new and interesting way and filled with enough philosophical thought to last a lifetime.
When Jep (Toni Servillo) learns of a past loves untimely death he enters a mode of reflection as he looks back on his life while learning to appreciate the things he has in the present that ground him. While he struggles with his grief he also helps others find their path as he tries to find something to write about as part of his long gestating second book, one he is adamant he doesn’t want to write.
As Jep strolls the city, takes in the sights and sounds and the beauty of the place we start to understand how little he really knows about real beauty, something he has unwittedly been looking for all his life. He lectures people about what they should be experiencing but he doesn’t understand it really. Servillo portrays this perfectly as Jep’s barriers begin to collapse around him and his rules begin to be nothing more than guidelines.
The fluid direction as shots flow into one another proves not only unusual but relevatory as every sequence is given a more effervescent and lively atmosphere with a hint of mystery thrown in for good measure. The film doesn’t pretend to understand The Great Beauty it is trying to show but it gets that we all see it in a different way so director Paulo Sorrentino ensures we never see any unnecessary shots.
That being said the film is full of moments that contain subtle elements but never really add to the big picture, you can enjoy them on their own but can’t appreciate the full package. Jep seems to have that problem as well which either makes this picture surprisingly ironic or powerfully expressive.
Unlike any film you will see this year, The Great Beauty is quintessentially Italian as it uses art, life and love to reaffirm and depress us at the same time