The Great Beauty - Blu-ray Review

''Unfortunately, in this country, to be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously', says one of Jep's many party-going friends. Is he talking about Italy's cinematic history perhaps?'

Clearly inspired by the films of the Italian master directors - Federico Fellini and others - Paolo Sorrentino's 2014 Oscar-winner The Great Beauty should be a slightly annoying, upper-class piece of navel-gazing, following well-to-do writer Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) as he turns the corner towards age and so starts to think about 'life' and other profundities.

What it actually is is a beautiful, mesmerising film, one part Fellini's 8 1/2, another Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte, a third Woody Allen's best and most insightful pieces of wit and humour. Sorrentino takes the dull, lifeless, humourless parts of the masters and throws them away, instead looking towards the warmth of people and the truth of beautiful photography. The opening, a choir singing around a fountain as a tourist collapses, is indicative of the rest of the film; morbid curiosity laced with a visitor's innocent eye of Rome, and life.

The wit, along with the visuals, is the key to making Sorrentino's film accessible, where so many of his contemporaries have previously produced dull trudges. 'Unfortunately, in this country, to be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously', says one of Jep's many party-going friends. Is he talking about Italy's cinematic history perhaps? In a film this cine-literate, you rather suspect the line is no accident. More throwaway moments include a tremendously middle-class comment about Ethiopian Jazz and the 'arrival' of a saint in Jep's bedroom, which is laugh-out-loud funny.

Sorrentino's editing moves fluidly between scenes of memory and flashback, to new scenes of Jep's current situation, though rarely is the feeling chaotic, nor the events unexplained. In one, we watch a boy practising football in his room, before the action switches back and the reason for showing us the scene is explained. It is gloriously plain-speaking, even when it is being obtuse and daring. Why does Jep's neighbour hardly talk to him and live behind a keypad-controlled door? It ultimately doesn't matter, but it feeds into Jep's existence and, inevitably, Sorrentino does provide you with the closure of an answer.

Meanwhile, as Jep searches for something he is surely destined never to find, nor to perhaps even know what it is, Sorrentino provides the viewer with enough suggestions to fill a lifetime. Preparing for a funeral, Jep gives Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli) his rules for funeral conduct, but getting there he cannot help himself and the tears flow. Is 'the answer' humanity, which Jep is surrounded by and has despite himself? If it is then Sorrentino's film does it perfect, beautiful justice.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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