“We’re all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little… Don’t you agree?”
‘The Great Beauty’, directed by Paolo Sorrentino in 2013, is an Italian art-house drama set in contemporary Rome. The film focuses on the life of Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo. Gambardella is a socialite who is famous for writing a novel in his twenties. Since then he has been organising parties in the city, drinking and womanising. The film follows him after his 65th birthday as he visits friends and lovers, reflecting on his life, on faith, remembering his past and contemplating his future. The spirit of Federico Fellini is inextricably threaded through this film. Sorrentino not only has the same sense of visual colour and elaborate camera movements, but there is also something Fellini-ish about the themes of religion and nostalgia, and in the elliptical narrative. Combining the misty romance of ‘Amarcord’ with the cool urbanity of ‘La Dolce Vita’ or ‘Fellini’s Roma’, ‘The Great Beauty’ manages to somehow be an update of these, presenting the city and its inhabitants as rooted in the 2000s but still exhibiting the same fleshy preoccupations of the 1960s and 1970s. The central character also has a similar coolness and charisma as Marcello Mastroianni’s Marcello Rubini, but there is perhaps a greater sense of tenderness about him which makes him more likeable. It’s a rich, visually stunning movie, but one in which the visual affectations support rather than distract from the intimate story of a mid-life crisis and a crisis of faith. It’s packed with memorable moments, and feels more personal than Sorrentino follow up movie ‘Youth’.
Would I recommend it? Yes – but then I love Fellini, especially the movies that Sorrentino seems to draw on. Watch it in a double bill with ‘Amarcord’, ‘La Dolce Vita’, ‘Fellini’s Roma’ or event ‘City of Women’.