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.
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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
Intriguing, sensuous movie-making of a high order.
This lengthy (142mins) intriguing, complex movie follows the reflections of former novelist, Jem Gambardella (Toni Servillo), as he contemplates his past and current life, a life, it would appear, of lost opportunities both personal and professional.
As a member of the wealthy elite of Roman society, he participates in their empty pastimes; parties fuelled with drink and drugs, bizarre art events and casual sexual encounters with beautiful but soulless women. Gambardella is both participant and observer, watching himself as much as his associates, mysterious animals trapped in the gilded cage that is Rome with all the stunning beauty of its architecture, fountains, sculptures, and paintings.
We are shown a funeral where Gambradella acts out the etiquette he has just been describing to us; a dinner with a cardinal who seems more interested in food than faith; a saintly nun of extreme age mounting a stone staircase on her knees and crawling painfully onwards and upwards towards an image of Christ . . . Everywhere, life presents contradictions, material and spiritual, emotional pretence and genuine feeling, the Eternal City and its mortal inhabitants, . . .
If all this sounds too heavy, everything is carried along by a welter of gorgeous images complemented by music that varies from the ethereal to hefty thumping dance beats. And the actors' performances are never less than utterly convincing.
At one of the parties as the massed participants enter into yet another conga-style dance, Gambardella remarks that 'we have the best trains in Rome because they don't go anywhere.' Everything comes back to where it starts and ends where it began. So in the long final credits sequence we float languidly beneath the bridges of Rome, left to contemplate the setting in which we first encountered the genial but disillusioned Gambardella.
This is an sumptuous, sensuous, fascinating movie which for me at least probably needs more than one viewing to fully appreciate. Don't miss it!
(Viewed at Screen 1, The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK, 12 September 2013)
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