Wed 26 Feb 2014
A few days from now ‘La Grande Belleza’ will probably get the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language picture so it’s probably a daring act on my part to share the opinion that this film is over-rated and that it’s not – in my humble opinion – the best film of Paolo Sorrentino. I actually like a lot the work of the Italian director, but I liked more the sharp critic of the Italian political system in the biographical Il Divo and especially the very original approach to the Holocaust in ‘This Must Be the Place’ - one of the best and unusual films in the Holocaust genre.
There is certainly a lot of charm and visual beauty in this ‘Great Beauty’. If this was a documentary I could have enjoyed the views of Rome and the film is a declaration of love for the Eternal City, a poem dedicated to it’s magnetism and power to corrupt. If it was a study of characters I would have first admired the aristocratic spleen of the principal hero in the story, as well as the collection of characters from the debauched and corrupt, and yet so fascinating high society and artistic media the characters come from. The film however also tries to draw a moral about the ephemeral nature of life and love, and about the vanity of beauty and emptiness of the extreme sensations – and this moral core is too thin for the fabulous wrapping it is enveloped in.
Of course, one can admire the exquisite cinematography and splendid performance by Tony Servillo, the preferred lead actor of Sorrentino. Just by seeing him here, in a film and a role so different from the one in Il Divo one can appreciate what a great actor he is and how he identifies with the character and melds in each role he undertakes. The disappointment is however with the director approach. Sorrentino used us that each new film is different than the previous one – strong and original, unexpected in vision and inventive in means. In La Grande Belleza he seems to have decided to quote Fellini – does Fellini need to be quoted, and did he really need to quote him? I love Fellini but I know that he died a while ago and I did not go to see a film of Fellini, but a film by Sorrentino, hence my disappointment.