Paolo Sorrentino’s new movie, The Great Beauty (2013), is itself a beauty (great or otherwise) set in beautiful Rome. It is the large-scale film Fellini should have made instead of La Dolce Vita and Satyricon, both failures, for it is a patently intelligent, always captivating satire-and-then-some about the Roman leisure class. Now 65, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a writer and interviewer, the heterosexual Truman Capote who sought to live the high life but inevitably feels he has ended up a nobody. Cleverness about Jep’s plight, among other things, scarcely abates: e.g. when the man asks a priest if it is true that he used to be a highly effective exorcist, the priest simply responds with a sacramental over Jep.
Luca Bigazzi wisely photographed with a toned-down attention to beauty, and there is dazzling camera use. Galatea Renzi, Sabrina Ferilli, and others are genuinely lovely middle-aged women. Music and dance are gangbusters. Sorrentino’s film is almost about itself and nothing else, but not quite. It’s better than that.
(In Italian with English subtitles)