The Great Beauty (2013)

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This is feast for the eyes from the outset. A glorious Italian film centering on a 65 year old writer, through his walking of Rome we uncover the beauty of the city and the internal suffering he faces of not going anywhere.

It’s a film that at times could be compared to the upbeat glamour filmmaking style of Baz Luhrmann, the party scene near the beginning of the movie in particular feels this way. The way it’s shot is quick and glossy and the Italian dance music thumping over the action adds to this crazy atmosphere. We soon learn it’s a celebration for Jep Gambardella’s 65th birthday and from this point onwards it becomes his story. We see his home, his maid, his friends and after a film that does feel long at times we come to find out what he finds beautiful, why he doesn’t write anymore and what the people around him have to say.

The cinematography is blindingly lush with each shot crafted to perfection to show off the city in all its grandeur. The citizens may be brushing off this modern era of Rome and falling out of love with it but you can’t help but admire the buildings and the art in each frame. The soundtrack switches from head bopping electro Italia music to classical and back again throughout the film and that ties in nicely with the way Rome has become. It’s classically beautiful but is updated and modern in it’s lifestyle now. This is said in a way when one of the characters comments that the tourists in their city are now nicer than the actual citizens. The city is alive with outsiders who are finding their home more interesting than the people who were born there.

Just at a point where I felt the film dragging a new scene kicked in and got me into the world again. The editing and surreal nature of the club dressed surgery bar was a unique idea and it was filmed in a way to show the mechanical and falsity of botox and the charm of the doctor was thrown in for his quick paycheck for people he saw only as ticket numbers. If there are really establishments like this then deary me!

The main theme that I could find was the idea of beauty in life and in death, beauty in the world and with each other. The title of the film says it all, even through pain and loss there is a sense of meaning and beauty. Jep’s theme is with himself, the feeling of disenchantment with his career. An event that occurs during the film also adds to this feeling as he questions his past and his first love, someone who apparently always loved him even when she was married to someone else. It’s a thought provoking drama with an eye for detail in it’s filmmaking and in that sense it’s brilliant.

The only problem I had with the movie was that it did feel long at times and that perhaps to my own unintelligence I didn’t understand every part of it. I’m sure there were underlying metaphors or themes to every scene but I couldn’t figure them out. The opening looked great and showed the tourists admiring the city but what happens to one unfortunate Asian man didn’t make any sense to me. Why was it shown? What does it mean? Maybe there was no reason so then why put it in. The flamingoes too created a beautiful shot but apart from the roots metaphor which I did understand, I didn’t get why they were there – apart from making the scene look really nice.

All in all a very gorgeous looking film with life questioned and wonder explored on the streets and hidden buildings of Rome. It feels slightly too long but you can’t question it’s great beauty.

8/10

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