'Beauty' a party train going nowhere
“The Great Beauty” resembles a contemporary “La Dolce Vita,” Fellini's surreal 1960 tribute to Rome's splendor, self-indulgence and superficiality.
Director Paolo Sorrentino creates vibrant, voyeuristic vignettes of high life and empty pleasures among the capital's hedonistic ruling class half a century on. We see Fellini's classic moments — a trip to the Trevi Fountain, a striptease, a flashlight tour of a darkened building — filtered through amped-up Berlusconi-era depravity.
The film gives us round after round of druggy dance parties where Rome's aging elite flails gracelessly to brain-numbing synth beats. Much of the film takes place after dark, with characters and images repeating as if in a recurring dream. Drink, dance, snort, repeat. True to the film's circular structure, the hot dance is “The Train,” a looping conga line going nowhere.
The leading role goes to Italy's master chameleon Toni Servillo, who is equally credible playing conniving peons and shrewd statesmen. He plays Jep, an author of great promise now cranking out puff pieces for a swank magazine. The debonair Jep is a fixture on the nightlife circuit, adding intellectual cachet to the raves. We follow him through fly-by encounters with scores of characters. Some gain a back story and a dramatic trajectory, others are simply confetti-like color.
Through our guide, we meet a performance artist who butts her head against 2,000-year-old aqueducts, a cosmetic surgeon who injects Botox in an endless assembly line, and a cardinal who would rather discuss cuisine than theology. Whether he's confronting tragedy or buffoonery, Jep's response is a sardonic smile. Numbing excess has put him in a spiritual rut.
What does the film mean? As Jep puts it, “Things are too complicated to be understood by one individual.” The film is dauntingly episodic and overlong at 150 minutes. But whatever squabbles some may have with the oblique, leisurely narrative, all will most certainly be captivated by Luca Bigazzi's camerawork. Like Fellini and Caravaggio before him, Sorrentino insists that we see the beauty of both the angelic and the damned.
Colin Covert is a staff writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Stowe’s Parkway Theater is serving up spaghetti with its Western films
- DVD reviews: ‘Under the Skin’ and ‘Rio 2’
- Kathy Bates keeps roaring with ‘Tammy,’ ‘Freak Show’
- Blockbuster movie ‘Brilliance’ delayed for Pittsburgh shooting
- Review: Thumbs up for Ebert doc ‘Life Itself’
- Review: ‘Planes’ sequel is twice as good as the original, which isn’t saying much
- Review: ‘Purge’ sequel gets it all out of our systems
- Review: Polanski and ‘Venus in Fur’ are a match
- Review: ‘Sex Tape’ an X-rated tale with a PG plot
- Lights, action, graffiti: Pittsburgh stands in for NYC in ‘Southpaw’