Review: ‘La Grande Bellezza’ (The Great Beauty) ****

The-Great-BeautyTHE uncredited star of this thought-provoking meander among lifestyles of the rich and famous is the city of Rome, its buildings ancient and modern, places little changed over the centuries, cultural institutions rich with antiquities and modern art, delightful gardens.

I first saw the film when it opened the recent Italian Film Festival. This repeat viewing gave me more. It begins with beautiful people in an exuberant dance routine at Jep Gambardella’s 65th birthday party.

Having spent four decades chronicling their having gorged themselves on surfeits of physical, voyeuristic, gourmandising and erotic sensations to the point where the quest for fresh stimuli no longer satisfies, Jep (Toni Servilio) has come to understand the depression and cynicism which now permeate their cultural, political and intellectual lives, his as much as theirs.

Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has equipped its characters with a credible range of challenging behaviours to sustain them until the next diversion. Its observations of 21st century social values are entertaining and disturbing in the same moment. Jep is trapped by his own history. Where he will go from here is unclear.

“The Great Beauty” doesn’t clamour for the attention of a large mainstream audience needing escapist diversion, which is no reason why you should avoid it. It’s intelligent, direct and perceptive. It doesn’t need contrived saving graces. Indeed, if it had them, its impact would have been less pervasive.

At Palace Electric

 

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