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Alexander Kotov
Alexander Kotov

The Great Beauty Image

Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, Jep looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.

The Great Beauty image


As the party swirls around him, Jep steps out of the crowd, lights his cigarette and speaks into the camera, reflecting on the one great novel he wrote 40 years ago and the life of substance he's avoided ever since.

As the party ends, Sorrentino's camera pans out to reveal Rome just before dawn. New York University professor Stefano Albertini says it's the image of an ancient city at peace in a way the film's characters are not.

This certainly isn't the first film to explore those uniquely Roman contradictions, the sins and the saints. Sorrentino follows in a line of post-war Italian filmmakers who sought to contrast the poverty and glamour of Rome, to puncture the image of movie stars riding around fountains on Vespas.

Like Federico Fellini, Sorrentino makes his characters almost caricatures. He inserts strange, surprising moments into the narrative. In one of them, a chorus of singers perform above a fountain as Japanese tourists try to capture the beauty on their cameras. Suddenly, one of them drops dead.

In director Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita, another journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) avails himself of the beauty of Rome, including Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) and the city's famous Fontana di Trevi. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

"That character, a tourist ... is seeking beauty and ends up being overwhelmed, overtaken by that beauty," Sorrentino explains. "Beauty is a fleeting experience that does not last. All things that do not last hurt us, and metaphorically, beauty can kill us."

Parents need to know that the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (in Italian with English subtitles) is an exceptional film for mature audiences, set among the wealthiest citizens of Rome. In a movie in which every image is magic, Paolo Sorrentino captures the wild escapades, the devastating personal tragedies, and the profundities of the "examined life." Nudity (both partial and full frontal -- and lots of it), sexuality, and profanity, along with alcohol and substance abuse, all contribute to the portrait the writer/director paints of one man at the age of 65 and the society in which he lives. Some scenes may disturb even the most sophisticated audiences (a woman purposefully runs head-first into a stone wall; a young girl is forced to create "art" while in a state of utter hysteria; a saintly nun pushes herself to extremes of physical punishment). Language includes "s--t," "f--k," "bastard," "screw," "p---y," and "ass."

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) is beautiful, original, eccentric, monstrous at times, and always unexpected. It carries a willing audience into the gloriousness of Rome -- and into the hearts of a bizarre gathering of pretenders, misfits, snobs, and voyeurs. Sometimes mocking, sometimes surprising us with its compassion, the film defies convention. Each frame is a thing of beauty; Rome fills the screen with its living art -- its architecture, its religious core, its outcasts, and, first and foremost, its art. As we travel with him, Jep becomes a thing of beauty as well -- flawed, self-absorbed, and yet radiant, insightful, and humane.

Jep is like Sorrentino's other great protagonists: impotent, charming but smug men who can't bear the thought of starting over. Jep casually boasts about how comfortable he is in his environment, but he also hopes that there's more to life than what he already knows. He grapples with many of the same preoccupations as the heroes of Sorrentino's other films. He is, to use an image from Sorrentino's "One Man Up," a big fish circling his own private fishbowl. His prison is defined by clipped and cutting arguments and visually rapturous tracking shots.

Sorrentino overwhelms viewers with information, but each scene is constructed with such care and attention that it's easy to miss that each new scene elaborates on Jep's latest theory or dilemma. His character arc is engrossing because it's not just full of complex ideas, thanks to Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello's screenplay, but visual beauty as well, courtesy of Luca Bigazzi's cinematography.

Jep Gambardella is a 65-year-old seasoned journalist and theater critic, a fascinating man, mostly committed to wandering among the social events of a Rome immersed in the beauty of its history and in the superficiality of its inhabitants today, in a merciless contrast. He also ventured into creative writing in his youth: he is the author of only one work called The Human Apparatus. Despite the appreciation and the many awards he received, Jep has not written other books, not only for his laziness but above all for a creative block from which he cannot escape. The purpose of his existence has been to become a "socialite", but not just any socialite, but "the king of society".

Robbie Collin at The Daily Telegraph awarded Sorrentino's film the maximum five stars and described it as "a shimmering coup de cinema". He likened it to Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City and Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita in its ambition to record a period of Roman history on film. "Rossellini covered the Nazi occupation of 1944; Fellini the seductive, empty hedonism of the years that followed. Sorrentino's plan is to do the same for the Berlusconi era," he wrote.[15] Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter stated "Sorrentino's vision of moral chaos and disorder, spiritual and emotional emptiness at this moment in time is even darker than Fellini's (though Ettore Scola's The Terrace certainly comes in somewhere)."[16] Critics have also identified other purposefully explicit film homages: to Roma, 8,[17] Scola's Splendor,[citation needed] Michelangelo Antonioni's La notte.[18] Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar named the film as one of the twelve best films of 2013, placing it second in his list.[19] In 2016, the film was ranked among the 100 greatest films since 2000 in an international critics poll by 177 critics around the world.[20] It is currently director Paolo Sorrentino's second highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes.[21]

This film, by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, is a large emotional description of what can make us beautiful, even when immersed in the absolute ugliness of what we see around us and what we are given by people; and it also covers how impossible it can be to enjoy beauty if we feel void.

Holy Nun: Why have not you written another book yet? Jep: I was looking for the beauty, but I still have not found it. Holy Nun: And do you know why I only eat roots? Jep: No, why? Holy Nun: Because the roots are the most important part.

Similarly, a hallucinatory, near-death montage moves the film into an entirely different type of cinematographic language with its use of negative and doubled images. Again, it seems as though Van Groeningen wants to visually emphasize some spiritual realm, but it comes off as amateurish.

Orax//Rockers is a creepy music video directed with Laila Sonsino, who I collaborate with often both in shooting and post-production.There are, as in many of my works, references to art, and in this case the works of the great artist Dino Valls. In an abandoned insane asylum, in a surreal and disturbing atmosphere, some young patients, forced with pliers and scalpels, suffer weird mutations.

I'm starting to think a lot of the Krave products are a bit overhyped. I've seen so many great things said about Great Barrier Relief but it was NOT for me! The smell (what I'm assuming is the Tamanu Oil) was so overly sweet and when I put it on my face, my skin immediately turned red & splotchy, and I had to wash it off right away. I'm also just so surprised that none of the reviews mentioned how sweet smelling this was, it was very overbearing.

In contrast to the beauty and timelessness of the city, the people are vapid and shallow, at least those in Jep's circle who are mainly rich artistes who seem to spend all of their time at parties, dancing and watching pretentious performance art.

Director Paolo Sorrentino is a very self-indulgent director. He seems to be in love with his own visuals and expects the audience to feel likewise. Most of the first fifteen minutes of the film are without dialogue and simply show people dancing and partying at Jep's birthday party. You might argue that it sets the mood and shows what kind of people Jep knows except that is evident within the first two minutes. And the entire film follows suit. Scene after scene runs on too long or is simply pointless to begin with. Sorrentino is in love with his own visions. Too bad they're not as interesting as he seems to think. Put them to music and chop them up into 3 minute segments and he could be a great music video director, but I sincerely hope I never have to watch another one of his films again.

Authors note, I watched this in Italian, without subtitles. I thought this would leave me at a great disadvantage as my knowledge of the Italian language is molto poco, but I think it may have worked better as it forced me to focus on the imagery, of which this film so thrives upon.

Many subjects are covered, from politics to physical beauty to death. A performance artist has the Soviet Union hammer and sickle shaved into her pubic hair. Gambardella visits a strip club and then an elegant Botox injection gathering. A nun is also present for the injection. In fact, Nuns have a constant presence in the film.

With the language barrier, I am not exactly sure what the plot details of this film were. There are several long scenes of dialogue I was lost in. However, some symbolism and imagery is enough to explain things. In one scene a woman swims naked in an outdoor pool, then walks into her house where a man is swimming in their indoor pool. It is pretty clear that this couple is having issues. 041b061a72


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