Film review: The Great Beauty

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014
the great beauty

WORTH YOUR TIME: The Great Beauty is an exceptional and admirable film.

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THE GREAT BEAUTY(M)

Directed by Paulo Sorrentino

 

Paulo Sorrentino's sixth feature film, The Great Beauty has already picked up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Golden Globe in the same category.

And, to be fair, this is an exceptional and admirable film. It's just that, after Sorrentino's This Must be the Place, which was perhaps my favourite film of 2012, it's hard not to feel just slightly short-changed by this much-feted return to his native Italy.

The film follows a few months in the life of Jep. When me meet Jep he is on the cusp of his 65th birthday. Decades ago, when he was a young man, Jep wrote one terrifically good and popular novel. But there has been no follow up, and Jep has been content to parlay his fame and talent into a lucrative but unfulfilling career as a writer of magazine features. Truth be told, Jep doesn't do a lot with his days except host and attend a succession of hugely ostentatious parties, with people he appears to mostly loathe, many of whom he has slept with. Between these occasions, Jep takes long and solitary walks around his beloved Rome, having encounters, pondering the Meaning of It All.

Do I sound cynical? I don't mean to. The Great Beauty is one of the truly great films about a late-in-life existential crisis. And as a love letter to a city, and an epoch, I've never seen better. At least not since Fellini's La Dolce Vita: a film that is clearly Sorrentino's touch-stone for much of what he is attempting here.

This is a sinuous, sensuous, occasionally impenetrable, utterly solipsistic, and expertly made film which knows what it wants to say, and does not shirk from the philosophical heavy-lifting required to say it. It is also ravishingly beautiful to look at, and at times extraordinarily funny and gleefully satirical. While I certainly didn't enjoy every moment of The Great Beauty, it is a film I will re-watch, and then watch again.

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- The Dominion Post

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