Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on February 3, 2014
One of the five films nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, The Great Beauty is an amazingly wonderful dip into the pool of modern Roman decadence. The story is told from the perspective of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a journalist who turns 65 at the beginning of the film, and who despite being known for his great first novel decades earlier, is still searching for his inspiration for a second. The film owes a great debt to Fellini. You cannot help but think of La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, but Jep is much more world weary than Marcello, and the movie is much more than mere homage. It has some of the most striking imagery of any recent film. And if you love Rome, this is a must see!
Jep lives in a “to die for” apartment overlooking the Coliseum. He is always impeccably dressed and frequently more jaded observer than participant in the wild goings-on of his rich and famous Roman glitterati friends. But just after his over-the-top birthday bash, he finds out that the love of his younger life is dead and that she never stopped loving him, and that jolts him into seeing his existence — past, present and future — in a different light. There is no narrative per se, but a collection of scenes that taken together paint a picture of the man who got exactly what he wanted, but never found what he was looking for — the great beauty — despite that fact that he has been living right in the center of it all the time.
There are so many bizarrely memorable scenes in the film and fabulous characters: absurd performance artists, a man who has the keys to all the great buildings of Rome in a suitcase, a priest who is next in line to be Pope but would rather talk about great recipes, and Jep’s editor who is a dwarf with blue hair. And there are some very tragic characters, as well, mostly Jep’s close friends. But the film depends on the lead and Toni Servillo as Jep is simply perfetto! He has one of those faces that can express so much with so little. It is hard to describe the experience of watching this film. You know that you are just along for the ride though this man’s decadent life, which is at times very funny and other times quite sad. But what a wonderful ride! And the soundtrack, a mix of sacred music, disco and Italian pop, keeps the film constantly switching gears in unexpected, but interesting ways. Go, see, experience, and be sure to plan a great Italian meal afterwards.
I am so looking forward to seeing the other Oscar nominated foreign films, but right now I can’t imagine any other beating this one.
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