Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, Jep looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.
Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Thomas Bo Larsen,
Journalist Jep Gambardella has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. Written by
Italian cinema is, at last, on a roll again. Perhaps not in the same way as when Rossellini, Visconti, Fellini and De Sica were batting masterpiece after masterpiece into the arena but maybe more prodigiously than at any time since the young Olmi and young Bertolucci were setting the screen alight. In recent years we have had Michelangelo Frammartino's "Le Quattro Volte", Gianni De Gregorio's sublimely gentle comedies "Mid-August Lunch" and "The Salt of Life" and, perhaps best of all, the films of Paolo Sorrentino whose "The Consequences of Love", "The Family Friend" and "Il Divo" were highly original and sufficiently off-the-wall to invite comparisons with Fellini. His one venture into English-language cinema, "This Must be the Place", met with a largely hostile reception from critics who accused him of being self-indulgent but I found the film to be gorgeous and quirky and just what I would have expected from so idiosyncratic a talent. And now we have "The Great Beauty", a return to Italy and a return to, what his critics might see as, earlier form.
This film, too, has been compared to Fellini which is entirely appropriate as this is a "La Dolce Vita" for the 21st century. You can even imagine the film's central character, Jeb, as Marcello, older if hardly wiser and for Sorrentino nothing much has changed. But if this is Sorrentino in Fellini mode it's just as close to the beauty and spectacle of "Amarcord" or, more appropriately, "Juliet of the Spirits". Once again the lead is taken by Toni Servillo, who was Sorrentino's Andreotti in "Il Divo" and once again he confirms his position as one of the cinema's finest actors, heading a truly superb ensemble cast.
As in "La Dolce Vita" there is no real 'story' but rather a series of episodes in the life of Jeb in the days following his 65th birthday, (his birthday party is the first of the film's many great sequences). If there is a theme it's Jeb's increasing disillusionment with the lifestyle he has associated himself with over the years, a lifestyle he is very reluctant to give up, no matter how pragmatically he views it. He is a man who has had many women but no real relationship to speak of, (the early love of his life married someone else). He meets the daughter of an old friend, a 42 year old stripper with a drug habit, and they strike up a relationship of sorts though when they go to bed together he is happy when they don't have sex. He gets sustenance from his friends although he can be cutting and abrasive in their presence. It seems as it is they, and not money or power, which keeps him going.
This is a magnificent movie, the kind of film that you know is being composed, frame by gorgeous frame, by a master film-maker. It is a breathtaking melange of sound and images, of great performances and superlative dialogue that draws you in and holds you from its first shot to its last. Some directors open their films with great tracking shots but Sorrentino saves his to the end, up, over and under the bridges of the Tiber as the final credits roll. Don't leave the cinema to the very last second.
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