The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013): Italy | France

Reviewed by Mirass Jalil. Viewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Because Santa Barbara International Film Festival is the Oscars Festival,  the buzz surrounding the oscars nominee for best foreign film, The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) was huge. I got in the theatre with high expectations and got out amazed  but still very confused. Paolo Sorrentino’s two hour long supposedly masterpiece gives us an amazing impression of the ancient city Rome with his astonishing cinematography and editing skills. He presents very intellectual and exiting characters with an extreme unclear storyline.

Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a former writer, well he wrote one book in his twenties, but managed to stay a public figure in the wonderful city Rome. He hosts parties and lives in glamour, but after his 65:Th. birthday party he feels that something is missing. He feels alone and starts to search for a meaning in his life. To him staying young is the most important thing, however, he tends to taunt people who express this reality of him. We get to know diverse characters and the streets of Rome through the eyes of Jep and learn that he sees himself in all the hideous and grotesques of the city and the people.

Paolo Sorrentino introduces us to the characters with an amazing party scene, that looks like a regular day for Jay Gatsby  in The Great Gatsby. By giving us close-ups on almost every person in the party and  several close-ups on the most important characters, you know immediately that the next two hours is going to be a character study. The party takes place in Jep Gambardellas glamorous apartment overlooking the Coliseum, which attracts the audience to both the characters and the city. The first time we are presented to the main character, Jep Gambardella, you know his importance as he turns around, looks into the camera with a big fat smile and a cigarette in his mouth. People surround themselves around him and congratulate him, which puts him in the center of the party and in the film. The camera comes from an angle above his head and turns around so the picture is up-side-down as he still maintain in the center of the picture. In that moment we realize that not only is the picture up-side-down but also Jeps whole world. So from two shots the director lead us into a film where the main character is broken from moment one.

As we follow Jep Gambardella, we get a fundamental understanding of his past, desires and emotions. However, with the unclear storyline it gets harder to follow the characters change and evolvement, which gives the film a vague resolution. Even though the character study of the Jep is amazing, the storyline doesn’t hold up, which makes it difficult to understand the rest of the characters, their decisions, thoughts and emotions. So bottom line, it doesn’t matter how good character study you have, it’s essential that you have a fairly good storyline. However, this is something I recommend to see, it gives you a great lesson about life, love and helps you appreciate the beauty in everything.


About this entry