Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Movie with Abe: The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Released November 15, 2013

Among this year’s crop of films eligible for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” an energetic snapshot of one man living high above society and coasting along thanks to the initial success of his one novel and his journalistic career that followed. Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo)’s lavish lifestyle involves spirited parties each night that run through the morning and intellectual conversation with a select group of friends, and it’s only natural that the occasion of his 65th birthday should inspire him to start thinking about whether he’s actually accomplished happiness in his life.

“The Great Beauty” is very much like a similarly-titled film from this same year in many ways. “The Great Gatsby” was a look at excess and extravagance in America in the 1920s, with long parties into the night thrown by an elusive mystery man. The figure at the center of these festivities in the present day in Italy is not so mysterious, but he does still have a certain allure, especially when he is shown for the first time on screen about ten minutes into the film, smiling as the entire party turns to look at him. The concepts of the two characters are not all that different, since both are unable to form human connections in a normal and lasting way because of their stature and attitude towards the world.

“The Great Beauty” is prone to fits of music-laced montages, showcasing people in moments of frenzied or focused passion at many points throughout the film. It’s a dazzling introduction to these characters and this world, celebrating the city of Rome and all it has to offer. This film is as much a message about society and happiness as it is the story of one man, and its styles alternate greatly as it flows from straightforward story to intense art film in mere moments.

“The Great Beauty” certainly has some gorgeous visuals, and it’s hard not to be taken with the film’s representations of Rome and the people within it. Its themes, however, are not entirely consistent, and it changes from a dance party to a stoic film about the power of religion without much warning. Those transitions are often stirring but just as often jarring, and it makes for an equally captivating and convoluted cinematic experience, one worthy of being seen but not so easily digested.


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