Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2013 Winner, The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty

Director: Paulo Sorrentino, 
Distributed by:  Medusa Film
Released:  May 2013
Country:  Italy

You never hear people who've been to Rome come back home and call it a dump.  I think Rome is one of those places people are more likely to come at you with one of those trite "look-at-me-I-travel" phrases: “Have you ever been?  You simply have to!  It’s beautiful!”  I’ve never felt the urge—maybe I just don’t get Rome.  The Great Beauty cinematically presents The Eternal City as a party town, kind of a European Las Vegas, Italian-style.  It’s certainly flashy and seems like a lot of fun, but beauty is only skin deep, no?

First Love:  Bellissima
So what is “The Great Beauty”?  After watching this 142-minute spectacle of a film my truthful answer is, “Hell if I know.”  It could be the cinematography of this wonderfully-shot Italian movie, which should probably be seen on the big-screen, with all the bacchanalia and vivid color of modern Rome at night.  Maybe it could be the distant, sad but sweet memory of an innocent first love lost.  Or, it may have nothing to do with aesthetics at all; maybe it’s just the wisdom of a 100-year old nun.

Old Nun:  Bellissima?
Whatever it is, Jep Gambardella is looking to find it.  Jep is a 65-year old writer; or really, was a writer, having written an acclaimed novella when he was a young man.  Now he spends wads of lira, or euros, or whatever they spend in Rome these days, throwing huge parties and hanging out with the cool people.  They keep coming to his parties because Jep is a pretty hip guy; plus the vino and the roast beef, or whatever they serve at parties in Rome, is free.
Like the movie, there is not much of a plot to Jep’s life,
and lately, he’s feeling a bit empty.  The parties are boring him and his relationships and friendships are all pretty thin gruel, or whatever they eat for breakfast in Rome.  Jep cracks wise, dances in congo lines, and is a friend to everyone, but he doesn't seem to have any aim in life.  

I’m sure there is some artsy reason for the filmmaker having Jep befriend his friend’s stripper daughter and attend a funeral with her, but I couldn’t figure it out really.  Honestly, I couldn’t figure out a lot of this movie, which I chalk up to my amateur status as a foreign film reviewer, but I did enjoy watching it.  I liked Jep—you can’t not like his wit and his overall good manner—but I was never sure what he was trying to figure out.

The Great Beauty is one of those highly acclaimed European films dumb Americans like me never quite understand.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great beauty in this film to be found.

The Title:  La grande bellezza.  Reminds me of the SNL bit when Dana Carvey as a waiter ogles, gropes, and even licks the face of Kirstey Alley, calling her Bell-eeeezzz-ee-mah.
Culture:  You do get to see the beauty of the city a little, but I walked away thinking Romans were all freeloaders who do nothing but party, have random sexual encounters, and engage in witty repartee.  On second thought, maybe I should check this place out.

Agenda danger: The message of the movie seems to be that real beauty is not superficial.  There is a little bit of poking fun at a Catholic bishop who is more worried about helping people find good recipes than finding grace; but I think it’s mostly harmless, and offset by the goodness shown by the very old Mother Theresa-like nun.

Best Picture that year:  12 Years a Slave

Rating:  I give it three of five meatballs, or whatever they use to rate movies in Rome.

No comments:

Post a Comment