Friday, July 25, 2014

LA GRANDE BELLEZZA
(THE GREAT BEAUTY)

MovieMov 4: Italian Cinema Now
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex


This 2013 Oscar award winner for Best Foreign Language film takes off upon the 65th birthday of Jep Gambardella. He is an aging journalist/socialite who is still coasting on a novel he wrote over 40 years ago. He parties all night in the presence of pretty odd characters who are all just as superficial as Jep.

But he is also at his wits end over his hedonistic lifestyle and says out loud in a voice over to nobody in particular "The most important thing I discovered a few days after turning 65 is that I can't waste any more time doing things I don't want to do."

Yet his life of endless partying and his meaningless relationships with the people in his life continues on a daily basis. He is quite a proud person mindful of his immortality yet at the same time he knows he needs to alter and change his life for the better. Despite his fanciful life of leisure, he is always in search for 'the great beauty' which may come in the form of an inspiration for his second novel or also in the guise of a great love affair which unfortunately has eluded him for so long.  

Director Paolo Sorrentino who co-wrote the script regales us with a very artistically and technically beautiful film. Showing us stunningly angled shots of ruins and iconic landmarks from ancient Rome to the modern decadence that exist behind the closed doors of the gated mansions where most of the characters live. It is a perfect blend of layers after layers of eye opening images - a visual tapestry and certainly of 'great beauty'.

But deep within all the layers is Jep Gambardella who is quite a complex character. Actor Toni Servillo is excellently cast as Jep. His facial expressions, his gait and his debonair demeanour is spot on.

Although Jep may live a frivolous existence and does his best to show off as enjoying it, he reveals in voice-overs a deeper awareness of his flaws and those of his society friends. While others treat him as a celebrated literary author because of his single novel (like some one hit wonder singer), he also knows he is not working on a second book and he feels he has nothing more to say that can truly make an impact.

Running at almost 3 hours, the film isn't just about a world of hedonism and whathaveyous. It has quite a reflective tone as Jep can personify anyone in this world. Anyone who is at the crossroads of one's life. Who is trying to find answers to pondering questions. Answers which some may not want to hear or choose to simply ignore as we are too busy living the life we think we are suppose to live. Even though at the back of our minds, we all know life could be much better if only we were brave enough to take the first step towards a better future. 

As for Jep, you would have to stick till the end to find out if he did find his great beauty.

Despite the odd bunch of characters, the sometimes bizarre and absurd side plots thrown at you from all sides, the film is in itself a work of exceptional beauty (for lack of a better word) and that alone is worth all the contemplative mood swings one experiences while watching "La Grande Bellezza". 

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