write, that’s what they do. Jep
Gambardella still qualifies, just barely.
After the publication of his acclaimed first novel, he chose to spend the
rest of his career penning Vanity Fair-style
celebrity profiles. It was much easier,
but far less satisfying. Gambardella belatedly realizes this holds true for all
aspects of his life in Paolo Sorrentino’s The
Great Beauty (trailer
official foreign language Oscar submission, which opens this Friday in New
is Garbardella’s sixty-fifth birthday and his social circle is ready to party
like they are really his friends. The
magazine writer is in his element.
However, he turns uncharacteristically pensive when he learns his great
lost lover has passed away, perhaps still harboring undiminished feelings for
him. Hoping to experience a similar passion,
Gambardella commences a relationship with Ramona, the daughter of his old strip-club
owner crony, who still works in the family business at the impressive age of
forty-two. Perhaps there is some
substance to their affair, but at the very least, her presence on his arm
thoroughly scandalizes Rome’s high society.
rapturous viewing experience, Great
Beauty must be the most elegant looking and sounding film since Luca
Guadagnino’s I am Love. Frankly, it takes considerable guts to make a
film that so perilously invites comparison to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, but Sorrentino has boldly gone there
nonetheless. He masterfully maintains a
mood that is palpably seductive and elegiac.
Indeed, Great Beauty is likely
to induce a midlife crisis in viewers, regardless of their age or
accomplishments. Yet, it is an elusive cinematic
statement that slips through your fingers whenever you try to analyze it.
frequent collaborator Toni Servillo gives the career performance of an
accomplished career as Gambardella.
Wonderfully urbane and devilishly witty, he nonetheless acutely
expresses Gambardella’s each and every regret. This is Academy Award caliber
work, but Great Beauty is so refined
and mature it will probably be lucky just to make the foreign language cut.
course, Servillo is not laboring alone. As
Ramona, Sabrina Ferilli’s earthy vulnerability perfectly complements Servillo’s
cerebral angst, while the manic melancholy of Carlo Vendone as Gambardella’s
writer-associate further heightens the Fellini-esque vibe, whereas Giovanna
Vignola is simply incomparable as his acerbic editor, the diminutive Dadana.
Clearly, nobody shoots statuary and
architectural edifices like cinematographer Luca Bigazzi. Similarly, the themes composed by Lele
Marchitelli, as well as several shrewdly licensed selections from the likes of
Arvo Pärt, provide a rich feast for the ears.
Altogether, Great Beauty is a
powerful and assured film on every level.
Very highly recommended (especially to Academy members), it opens this
Friday (11/15) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Labels: Italian Cinema, Paolo Sorrentino, Toni Servillo