The Great Beauty – La Grande Bellezza – Is Not A Great Movie (1)

 The Great Beauty by

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), a film on Rome by Neapolitan Paolo Sorrentino, is the winner of the 26th European Film Awards.

[Update: the film has now also won Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards]

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What can I say, this is not the real Roman life as far as I can tell.

The city is sumptuously shot, Toni Servillo is a great actor, but it is somewhat upsetting the way some Italian filmmakers (from Commedia all’italiana onwards) only magnify what is wrong and are silent on all that is good. I can understand the debauched to be more in the news than the sound. But this is cinema, not journalism.

Some Italians (not only journalists and filmmakers) do not seem to care about the side effects of always displaying degradation.

Toni Servillo, Sorrentino’s muse, when asked at a Cannes Press conference – I learn from the Guardian – whether “he was not fearful for the audience’s health, sitting there, soaking it up”, replied: “Art must be daring”.

Therefore I for once agree with the German Der Spiegel that gently observes – by quoting Thomas Mann – how from such visual opulence only sheer merde comes out (“Und was kommt dabei heraus? Die reine Scheiße!”).

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One last thing. All this aping of Fellini … I like Sorrentino when he is himself. His Fellini-ness is artificial (and originated by sheer calculation).

La Grande Bellezza

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in ‘La Grande Bellezza’ by Paolo Sorrentino

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See part 2:

The Great Beauty. A Window Into Rome’s Occult Secrets? (2)

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good to hear from you again! I was in the US last week and heard an interview with Sorrentino. Based on what I heard, your comments don’t surprise!

    • Hi Thomas, glad to have exchanges with you again!
      Not caring about the side effects, especially when in a position to influence large audiences, doesn’t seem right to me. But I may be old-fashioned. Incidentally, I read your book ‘Identities’ and found it quite a good read. Your first-hand knowledge of big corporations is perceptible.

      • Thank you for reading and for your kind feedback!

  2. After reading the Guardian review and the Servillo reflections on the destructive power of beauty, I began to ponder the difference between beauty and fantasy.

    It seems to me that beauty has to do with reality, clarifying and enlightening, whereas fantasy hides, confuses and misleads, leaving us in darkness.

    I don’t know if that is a fair distinction but, judging by the trailer, the film is about the destructive power of fantasy, and has nothing to do with beauty.

    • Thank you Richard. Allow me though not to get into the distinction between beauty and fantasy, too complex ugh.

      My opinion – and it regards fantasy more than beauty – is that the film portrays a Roman society living in Sorrentino’s fancy only.

      There of course can be social gatherings, here, not entirely different from Jep’s – Rome is big enough – but they do not at all characterize the Roman social life as far as I know. Even Fellini’s ‘La dolce vita’ was judged by the Romans as the wild fantasy of an outsider.

      For the sake of dialectics, another Guardian review on the same film I might insert in a future post, very much in line with the theme of this blog, roman-ness: an entirely diverse way of looking at the movie. We will see. Ciao!


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