Monday, November 25, 2013

 

The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)

The Great Beauty official site Rome is indisputably one of the most magnificent and cinematic cities in the world. Italian director Paolo Sorrentino proudly pays tribute to this ancient gem and poetically expresses his nostalgia toward the city's glorious past in his absorbing new film "The Great Beauty" (La grande bellezza | Italy/France 2013 | in Italian | 142 min.). By using the film's protagonist as a metaphor, the film reminds us the city's rich history and its uncertain future, while taking us on a grand tour over Rome's exquisite glamor. The film has been selected as Italy's submission to compete for the Best Foreign Language Film Award at this year's Oscar.

The film opens with the 65th birthday celebration of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who wrote his only (masterpiece) novel called "The Human Apparatus" about four decades ago. Yet, somehow he continues to enjoy the fame among the elite circle to this day. Impeccably dressed and irresistibly charming, he socializes and parties with the rich and famous all night long in Rome. He goes to bed when others wake up in the morning. And when he does wake up and steps out into the terrace of his apartment, he overlooks the Colosseum, no less.

Life seems good for Jep. But when he strolls down the stone paved streets, tours historical structures, and interacts with different people in Rome, his observant and expressive eyes are full of longing for his past, with a sense of sadness realizing that everything is drifting away from him, including this extraordinary city he calls home.

The Great Beauty Official Site

The film takes you from one scene to another in an unconventional narrative style, as if you are viewing various works in a museum. However, regardless which piece of work you are seeing in this fine museum, it is intriguing if not striking. You catch your breath to keep up with the film's pace, like a tourist—still delighted even exhausted at times.

The film's lavish imagery is a magnificent feast to the eyes. The film's terrific music score is operatic. The movement of the camera makes you feel that you are soaring like a bird above this splendid city. Combining them together, the film resembles an elegantly composed grand opera.

The character of Jep is more a symbolic figure of Rome than a realistic real life individual. His reflection on his past and his pondering toward his future is precisely what this great city is facing. When Jep goes down his memory lane during his sober and waking hours, Rome gracefully lays out its glorious history.

When the final credits roll on the screen, you get to travel in the Tevere with the gliding camera. You are enchanted and awestruck by the city's great beauty one more time before your book your airline tickets heading to Rome to see it in person.

"The Great Beauty," a Janus Films release, opens on Friday, November 29, 2013 in San Francisco Bay Area.


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