The Great Beauty (142 minutes) Italian with English Sub-Titles
From the very beginning “La Grande Bellezza,” in English “The Great Beauty” entices with its audacious scenes of Rome.
Perhaps all of this is a dream. The film may seem as Baroque as in its sensibilities like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” we are in the presence of great theatre, the stage is the city, Rome. If life is a dream, we are easily seduced by Sorrentino’s lush canvas.
From the high vistas of Rome, we travel through the facile world of la dolce vita, although these darkened corners are less the world of Fellini; yet showing a wistful but jaded detachment from all, namely a world drenched in facades.
The main character, Jeb Gambardella, a latter-day Proust without the cork-lined rooms; appears satiated by his life as the dilettante. His character although constantly flitting from party to party represents an older world, where sensory beauty, and art is everything.
Gambardella is surrounded by the opposite side of the coin: the nouveau riche. The contrast between the writer, his interior motives and his destiny are uneasily juxtaposed to the new era. The shallow swans, swains and chimeras of this Rome, an Italy of empty poseurs, indulge their media fantasies, endless Bellusconi-like parties, reprises a large segment of the film. The depths of the dark shades are really a beautiful meditation on loss, life, death, memory, art which encourages a dance, an evocation most satisfying, because it is a life involved in art. The visionary element of this film charts the vagaries of modern Rome. Subtly played by all, especially Toni Servillo as Gambardella; but we are drawn to the furies of the city, both good and bad. This universe brings both creation, but also death. Fame, as some have come to regard it, may be the disease of the age, while some find it difficult to part from its allure. Gambardella seems ambivalent, although he is intoxicated by the beauty of this truncated world, and the nature of Rome.
Rome resplendent is very fine indeed. In the hands of this director we share in a very human fable. The body and life of man: his sadness, his pride and his destiny unfold with the poignancy of the most fervent dreams. “La Grande Bellezza” is full of life with many dazzling scenes. We might have a vainglorious tale; the story of a modern Icarus, but my, how brightly he, Gambardella burns. This is an old-fashioned film, but it is a truly Great one in the European tradition.
Review by Timothy Sparks
Freelance Writer - Poet - Film Reviewer