Review: The Great Beauty
[Grade: A] A dazzling fantasia positions itself as a sort-of sequel to Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, one of the greatest films ever made.
City Paper grade: A
A monumental act of hubris made more impressive by being pulled off so splendidly, director Paolo Sorrentino’s dazzling fantasia positions itself as a sort-of sequel to Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, one of the greatest films ever made. Sad-eyed Toni Servillo stars as Jep Gambardella, a one-time novelist and dapper darling of Rome’s social scene who has drifted through the past four decades in a haze of beautiful women, extravagant luxury and killer parties. But Jep’s 65th birthday has thrown our old hedonist for a loop, and suddenly the sweet life ain’t what it used to be. Sorrentino appropriates Fellini’s rambling, anecdotal structure and pet obsessions: curvy ladies, dwarves and juxtapositions of the sacred with the profane. (Yes, there’s even a circus.) But The Great Beauty is more than mere homage. Filtered through Sorrentino’s own rambunctious sensibility, it’s a richly symbolic meditation on aging, mortality and precious time wasted. There’s a tremendous musicality to the filmmaking; individual setpieces have their own distinct rhythms while all unmistakably being part of the same song. Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi’s camera hurtles through surreal spectacles of exhausted decadence, as Servillo’s bemused gaze reveals an existential ache for all that might have been and a weary acknowledgement that every party must eventually end.