I’m Italian but I live abroad and every time somebody starts talking about cinema, people look at me and says something about Paolo Sorrentino and The Great Beauty. Until yesterday, I could only respond with an embarrassed smile, as I hadn’t seen that 2013 movie. Now that I’ve seen it, well… I don’t know if I can write it, being Italian and a cinema lover, but I didn’t like it very much. Let me explain.
First of all, let me specify that I haven’t seen the director’s cut lasting two hours and 52 minutes. I saw the theatrical cut which is just two hours and 20 minutes long. Despite that, I found that the movie dragged a lot, so much so that I would have gladly cut at least 40 minutes. Actually, it would be easy to do since the film is a series of random scenes one after the other with no real order, no story arc, and no characters’ development whatsoever. And it’s probably intentional! Let me quote Mr. Sorrentino himself:
The film contains a subtext on the fatigue of living experienced by certain individuals whose existence is devoid of planning. This concept could best be rendered with an exhausting length.
Exhausting. I mean, the director knows that he made a grueling film to watch, and in fact this perfectly summarizes my experience, I barely made it to the end of the viewing without falling asleep. Also, I wouldn’t call what he mentions in his statement a subtext: it’s literally the only theme of the whole movie! Scene after scene, Sorrentino shows us the emptiness of a Roman elite made up of horrid, stupid, and false people filled with botox, and fake intellectuals who spend their time between a party and a contemporary art performance (the one of the little girl throwing buckets of paint is particularly disturbing) propelled by cocaine and alcohol.
All these characters have been successful in some way in the past, although even their glorious days are as empty as their current lives: there are former television stars, a writer whose success is rooted in her militancy in a certain political party, a writer who only wrote one book in the last 30 years…
So, perhaps the lack of a real story is a clever parallel to the lack of the protagonists’ personal stories. There’s a problem, though: I may be able to endure a film without an actual story for a limited amount of time, but not for more than two hours! The Great Beauty gave me the feeling of watching a series of unrelated scenes full of people I don’t know anything about and that I don’t care about, and this bored me to death.
And of course Rome is beautiful in this film. Framed by a sinuous camera that never stops and well photographed by Luca Bigazzi, the Eternal City really shines in every scene. Not his elite, which, as I already wrote, is empty and stupid in the eyes of Sorrentino who, presumably, is part of that same elite. And the same goes for many of the actors he used in this work such as Carlo Verdone (who plays perhaps the most positive character in the entire film, a pathetic man who’s not so full of himself) and Sabrina Ferilli, to name just a couple.
But let’s try to sketch the plot: Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is a 65 years old failed writer and successful journalist. He’s tired of the inadequacy of the Roman dolce vita (there are many references to cinematic masterpieces of the past, although I struggled to find their meaning within the movie anyway), and after an enlightening encounter with a centenary nun, he understands how to rediscover the joy of living. I think that the finale is nothing short of dumb, with its holy nun (Giusi Merli) and the unwatchable CGI animals. And in any case this story could have easily been told in an hour and a half, and it could even have been a good movie.
But two hours and a half / three hours, come on… thank goodness I don’t have the full version on Bluray! I also saw Youth (2015) at the cinema, I didn’t like The Great Beauty, so I’m probably glad that I didn’t watch Loro (2018)! Anyway, the film has been a smash hit all over the world, so maybe I didn’t understand it and, therefore, didn’t appreciate it. Ciao!
- The movie trailer on Youtube
- The movie page on Internet Movie DataBase
- Movie review on Reading and watching the world
- Movie review on A mighty fine blog
- Movie review on John the blogcentric
- Movie review on Movies that make you think
- Movie review on Walk cheerfully
- Movie review on Bored and dangerous
- Movie review on Wonders in the dark
- Movie review on Rufus and Rastus’ reviews
- Movie review on e-Tinkerbell