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5.0 out of 5 stars
It is really a Great Baeauty, 5 Mar 2014
Collapsed in my armchair, with a few people around me, I have greatly enjoyed the latest masterpiece by Paolo Sorrentino and Tony Servillo whom it would not be an exaggeration to call the Coen brothers of Italian cinema, such is their harmony when they work together and permeate each other.
I had an inkling that it was a great movie even when some friends stated: “ ... Yes, beautiful... a little slow… maybe Fellinian”.
The countless references to the great Federico were more than due: not too many but perhaps too few.
The story begins with the birthday of Gep Gambardella, in one of those parties in contemporary Rome that could be defined as a “cast by Fellini” as Woody Allen would say: a total mess, a jumble of undefined and screaming genres, suffering from delirium tremens fuelled by cocaine, heroin and alcohol, that added only bad taste to the orgies of Caligula.
A mixture of Jurassic masks of cheesy humanity willing to sacrifice everything at the altar of appearance, in a mix of genders and genres, social classes, physical and mental horrors, where the only recognizable glue is an extreme form of kitsch.
We see the princes Colonna of Calabria who are hired for a fee at dinners, the cardinals who should speak of God but dispense recipes of browned rabbits simmered with mint and fennel, a beautiful woman stripping off to pay for the treatment against the disease that will eat her up soon, an army of idlers busy doing nothing, intellectual women who have written the history of the Party, but who are best known for their work in the restrooms of the University.
Everything is phoney, everything is fake, it is the festival of appearance, of boredom, of not doing anything. It is a long advertisement to smoking, drinking, drugs and especially to the display of many little and enormously monstrous egos in search of impossible identities.
It is not possible to compare these scenes with those of three other historical films: ‘Roma’ and ‘La Dolce Vita’ (The Sweet Life) by the great Federico Fellini, and Woody Allen’s pathetic spot (To Rome with Love) justified only by the fact that he wasn’t given much money to shoot the film (but could he compete, on this field, with Fellini and Sorrentino? However, Woody Allen is still one of my favourite directors).
Not to mention, however, even the beautiful ‘Caro Diario’ (Dear Diary) by Nanni Moretti and some scenes in the catacombs in Liliana Cavani’s ‘Al di là del bene e del male’ (Beyond Good and Evil).
In ‘La dolce vita’ the great Fellini shows us a seemingly happy and radiant humanity in convertible sports cars and improbable night dives in the Trevi fountain: this is only the ‘desktop’ of a mythical world of wretches looking for a role but condemned to immense solitude.
Evocative , sometimes wonderful, mysterious, age-old and always true magic – on the other hand – is Federico Fellini’s ‘Roma’, whose traces abound in ‘The great beauty’ by Paolo Sorrentino, that also gives us an extraordinary, perhaps the most valuable in absolute, database of images of the beautiful capital. It is surreal, dream-like, always depicted shortly after dawn, where the protagonist is finally alone to enjoy more than two thousand years of history, culture, art and civilization, having abandoned jugglers-monsters who pretend to live and strive to convince others that they are not dead yet.
Tony Servillo “is reborn” on the day of his 65th birthday: he tries to ask questions, starts to have curiosities and looks in the higher ranks of the Church for an answer that cannot be given because the Cardinals are busy saying platitudes and dispense recipes.
Then he goes back to his innocence when he was eighteen years old and deflowered by an angel girl of twenty who then left him. After that he could no longer pursue that dream and was lost in a worldliness of nothingness.
Striking and impressive is the reference to a probable Mother Teresa, who is the only character who does not speak but climbs on her knees on the steps of a staircase that never ends:
“I only eat a few roots because roots are important”.
A great Sorrentino, certainly one of the greatest glories of contemporary cinema.