La Grande Bellezza / The Great Beauty (2013)

“Viaggiare, è proprio utile, fa lavorare l’immaginazione. Tutto il resto è delusione e fatica. Il viaggio che ci è dato è interamente immaginario. Ecco la sua forza.”
To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.

―Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Viaggio al termine della notte.

In a way the film is about taking a journey. A journey of one Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a successful journalist, legendary writer, an integral part of the city’s crème de la crème. On his 65th Birthday party, he had a sudden moment of epiphany, beginning to question his life thus far, and swear to himself not to do things he doesn’t desire. He reflect upon his life in retrospect, past the glamourous life and decadence he surrounds himself with, using his own  looked at what he have achieved. As realization sinks in through the existence of the women in his life (the death of a first love, the stripper, and the 104-years old saint), we saw through his weary eyes, the cynical joke towards him and the throng of hedonist hidden behind their fake façade.
I love the satire the film offers through Gambardella newly found vision of his life. He uses wit and sarcasm to criticize the pretentious, decadent life. The parties, the gastronomic adventures, the cost of beauty, the sex, the drugs, the religion, the aristocrats and their decadence, the artists and their arts, their lies, their honesty. Gambardella constantly contemplate his own journey and show a jaded soul behind his bespectacled eyes (watch him deconstructed and destroys his cohort carefully put together ‘perfect’ life during one of their intimate gathering). The realization dawn in the middle of his outdoor party, amidst the banging soundtrack of La Colita, accompanied with visual that is would put Luhrmann’s Gatsby to shame. Gambarella need to found the ‘Great Beauty’ was reflected in the obvious exploration of beauty. It was embodied in the captured beauty of the eternal city itself, in arts, in his love, and his woman. The theme of worship appears a lot throughout the film. Most profoundly in the dialogue with the saints as well as in the scene of the highly worshiped cosmetic dermatologist and the child artist that everybody adore yet loosing her childhood in the process.

Why aren’t you writing another book?
I was looking for ‘the great beauty’, but i did not find it.
Did you know why I only eat roots?
No. No, Why?
Because roots are important.

Paolo Sorrentino‘s La Grande Belleza, internationally known as The Great Beauty, is not a mere story of a man’s journey to re-discover himself. The film is an ode to the city of Rome, capturing its beautiful arches and majesty in architecture in each and every frame. It’s landscape views are vivid and vibrant, dynamic yet elegant, thanks to the meticulous eye of Luca Bigazzi. Carefully selected scores add the to the texture of the film using a mixture of classical opera numbers to thumping beats of the electronic music. All these elements made the film core theme of a life journey and self discovery to came across even more sad and poignant. What a beautifully odd film it is, and a powerful one at that.

Le Grande Bellezza will be released as a part of Criterion Collection, in DVD and Blu-Ray format with spine #702 in March 2014.


GENRE Drama, Comedy 
DIRECTOR Paolo Sorrentino | PRODUCER Nicolo Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Fabio Conversi | WRITER Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contraello | CINEMATOGRAPHER Luca Bigazzi | MUSIC Lele Marchitelli | EDITOR Cristiano Travaglioli | STUDIO Medusa Film, Indigo Film | DISTRIBUTOR Pathé, Medusa Film | COUNTRY Italy, France | BUDGET €9.2 million | RUNNING TIME 142 minutes | RELEASE May 21, 2013 (Cannes)
STARRING Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli

IMDb | Official Site | Trailer


DID YOU KNOW? La Grande Bellezza is Paolo Sorrentino’s 4th collaboration with Tony Servillo. The director and actor previously collaborated in L’Uomo In Più (2001),  The Consequences of Love (2004), and Il Divo (2008).


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