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The Great Beauty (15)

Life is sweet in the eternal city

The Great Beauty (15)
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

One of the great hits at this year’s Cannes Festival, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s portrayal of Jep Gambardella, a middle-aged and successful writer, is a film you’ll love or hate.

Originally from Naples and living in Rome, Gambardella is a grotesque mixture of hedonism and vulnerability. Not exactly handsome, he’s nevertheless a charmer with eclectic tastes who’s surrounded by women.

Living mainly at night, he wanders the city attending dinners and parties set on beautiful terraces overlooking the Coliseum in the Italian capital.

There he meets his entourage of friends — mainly left-wing intellectuals, art curators, editors, aristocrats, failed actors and journalists.

Gambardella, melancholic and unsatisfied, searches for a space in the emptiness of a mundane world to experience again the real beauty of life.

Sorrentino’s style is close to his previous films like Il Divo and closer still to the great Federico Fellini’s work.

Visually captivating, the film shows Rome in a fascinating trompe-l’oeil and, as the lights illuminate the city at night, a breathtaking and spectacular view emerges.

A film of visually expressed emotion rather than intellectual rigour, it’s akin to viewing images in an art gallery and each sequence is extraordinarily arresting as fantasy and reality merge seamlessly.

Sorrentino finds beauty not just in buildings but in the detail of a glass, a face or a situation. Everybody in this film is beautiful, like Jep’s boss — a dwarf in an elegant blue dress contrasting with the white marble of her terrace.

A sympathetic study of a place and its people, it has to be one of the best films about Rome since La Dolce Vita. One of the best releases this year, in my book.


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