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131 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No film since "La Dolce Vita" has so captured the melancholy party theory of Roman life
"The Great Beauty" (Italian: La Grande Bellezza), directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is a lovely film, simultaneously self aware and unashamed in channeling several of the themes, stylistic flourishes and concerns previously identified with classic Italian films like "La Dolce Vita", "8 1/2", "L'Avventura" and so forth. It makes superb use of Rome in all its classical beauty...
Published 9 months ago by APC Reviews

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Not our style. But that's just our opinion.
It was just too "something" for our taste. Maybe we aren't "artsy" enough???? Portrays a certain set of Italian folks with a certain lifestyle, which is totally foreign to mine. The best part of the movie for us was the beautiful Italian landmarks, architecture and artwork. Can't such much more, as we turned it off after about 15-20 mins.
Published 4 days ago by Mari G. H.


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131 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No film since "La Dolce Vita" has so captured the melancholy party theory of Roman life, December 26, 2013
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"The Great Beauty" (Italian: La Grande Bellezza), directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is a lovely film, simultaneously self aware and unashamed in channeling several of the themes, stylistic flourishes and concerns previously identified with classic Italian films like "La Dolce Vita", "8 1/2", "L'Avventura" and so forth. It makes superb use of Rome in all its classical beauty as a location for mournful contemplations on lost youth, present life, pending mortality and the tribal malaise and pretenses of Rome's creative elite, all presented with lots of style and sizzle. How much a viewer finds the film to ultimately be either haunting and depressing or stimulating and entertaining may depend on how close to home the life concerns and reflections of the protagonist are to the viewer's own life.

The "La Dolce Vita" like story of dissipated Roman creative posers and party animals confronting middle age, lost promise, failure and mortality, as though Marcello Mastroianni had never managed to transcend the final scenes of "La Dolce Vita", and had just grown old where we last saw him, allows for some wicked insights into and comments on Roman artistic life and an Italian film genre that is best summarized as "We are surrounded by so much beauty and greatness from the past, but we can only create empty beauty because we lack greatness, and can never achieve it again, and are tormented by the language and symbols of Catholicism, and are twisted into knots and self negation by intellectualizing about modernity. What else can we do but party? And, of course, we are melancholy at the emptiness of it all...".

If the "The Great Beauty" has an over all insight, which is suggested by the introductory quote from Céline's "Journey to the End of the Night", it is that the characters have all, in ways big and small, succumbed to the delusion that they each can, through art and the intellectualized control of discourse and expression, control and master the illusion of life. Each character has been either broken, humbled or sobered by the effort, and has found that a great deal of what they could have enjoyed about the illusion has been lost to them in an effort to dominate it.

The protagonist, Jep Gambardella, a once promising author with only one book of intellectualized social commentary to his credit, published very early in his career, after which he has settled into a long languorous slide to middle age as a "journalist" reporter on the arts in Rome, is sympathetic in that he has begun to grasp this underlying truth, and is working to reconcile himself to it. Many other characters in the film seem to have settled into the sort of dour connoisseurship and bored hostility usually associated with vendors in a Parisian flea market.

The film abounds in vignettes and passing comments, many quite touching and some of them quite depressing, involving different characters who come and go from scene to scene, all pointing to the fury of now being held prisoner by the long shadow of the past. There is, for example, the elderly fallen aristocratic couple, living in the basement of their family's old palazzo, which is open to tourists to earn income, who rent themselves out as aristocratic dinner guests. On returning late at night from a party, where Jep had hired them to impersonate old rivals of their family, who were unavailable but whom Jep had wished to attend a dinner party at his apartment being held for a Mother Teresa like saint that Jep wishes to interview, the wife of the elderly couple slips into the old palazzo and inserts some coins into an audio guide and, sobbing, listens to an audio explanation of the palazzo and an idealized account of her life there as a child. And no Italian film aspiring to social comment would be complete without scenes that highlight the vanity and fallibility of the Catholic establishment.

Perhaps the most telling, and memorable, at least for this viewer, line in "The Great Beauty" is spoken by Jep's hapless friend Romano, a seemingly talentless creative striver continuously rejected by Roman elites and audiences and continuously working to launch a fresh assault on the mountaintop with a new project. Romano, who angrily criticizes the basis of his artistic rejection, while masochistically humiliating himself in pursuit of a beautiful woman who can barely stand speaking to him, finally wins some approval by giving a performance piece where he grovels to the audience that he is "ordinary". Momentarily heartened by the applause he receives, even though the woman he craves walks out of the show as soon as he has finished, he soon decides to quit Rome altogether.

He tells Jep of his brief success with the audience. Jep replies, with some genuine empathy for his friend, that it's wonderful that he received a positive response. But Romano tells Jep that he is leaving Rome, and returning to his small hometown, from whence he had come to Rome as a young man. "Rome has disappointed me", he tells Jep.

This is really the insight moment for the film. The inability of someone, and that someone is almost everyone, to question their own consciousness, to in any way question or blame their own essential nature for their life, or to question their choice of an environment for themselves, much like the choice of a lover, that is toxic for them. Each person thinks they can transcend their environment and normalize their own consciousness through verbal definitions and success. Failing to do so, they blame the environment, or their own lack of effort, rather than their own consciousness and its need, like a drug addict, for that environment, no matter how toxic it may be to and devastating for them personally. Many a failed love affair travels the same path.

Jep briefly considers that he too may have exhausted his life in Rome, and that he might return to where he came from, or go on to some where else. But, in the end, Jep's consciousness is Rome. He cannot leave what he is, or go back to something he was not. Jep has become his environment, no matter how empty its charms and denizens may have become for him. If he is disappointed in Rome, it is because he is disappointed in himself. The two are inseparable. He is haunted by "the great beauty" of a moment in youth when all seemed possible, if only through a then youthful ignorance of life and himself. He has no where to go now but onwards, an observer of his own essential nature.

The film's Fellini like cinematic touches, which run on a steroids throughout, are in many ways busy work, lacking the organic relationship to the characters and film making that the same devices had in so many Fellini films. The film could have been made with much less overt style and have lost none of its essential nature nor any of its story impact. That is in a way a tribute to the strength of its conception and to the talents involved.

All that said, the film is gorgeous. Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella is superb, the role of a lifetime for the actor, and all the casting and production are first rate. No other film since Fellini's has so captured the look, feel and vibe of Rome as both an open air museum and a grand movie set for the personal dramas and struggles of the creatively obsessed, jaded, cynical, malevolent and determined. The film plays like a wry dirge for an over ripe funeral procession. But it is a beautiful and, ultimately thoughtful reflection on the energy and openness of youth fading into a fragile but wise middle age. The place is intensely Rome The style is uniquely Italian, But the story is human and universal. RECOMMENDED.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Italian Films, January 17, 2014
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I'm thrilled to see that Criterion Collection is releasing this film on disc so soon. I've seen it twice in the theater and it's one of the very best films I've ever seen. Not to be missed for anyone who appreciates Italian films, especially those by Fellini & Antonioni. Yes it contains many moments that reference La Dolce Vita, but as great as that film is, this one owes it no debt, it transcends La Dolce in many ways. On my first viewing I was swept away from start to finish. On second viewing the fragility of life and the poignancy of loss came to the fore. Amazing images and a great musical score.

The main character, Jep Gambardella, looked all his life for the great beauty but didn't find it. We get to see it everywhere around him.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The nostalgia is the only available device when one doesn't believe in future!, December 20, 2013
This is the most nostalgic Italian film since the times of Giuseppe Tornatore's Baaria. Gepp is writer who is living his autumnal ages, and so he explores with farewelll taste all those places, faces , friends, girls that accompanied him sometime but that actually are gone or like him have grown old.

"Roma has let me down" says one of his fellow friends. The journey into the night is filled with reminsicent metaphors that calls us back to La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, Roma and even Last year in Mariembad. The main character is closer to GianCarlo Gianini than Marcello. He walks, talks and reflects about his passions, hobbies, missing romances and how the actual world has lost part of the charm of his youth years.

Of course, there are cynical observations about the banality of society (even the Roman church is not absent).

The photography is admirable and talks by itself. And brilliant sequences that illustrate the state of despair and agonic loneliness (Giraffe's missing, for instance).

A film that highlights above the average. Good cast and magnificent custome design.

I have a presentiment. I guess this picture will win the Golden Globe as Best Foreign Film.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT FILM ABOUT TODAY, December 1, 2013
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Saw the film in Paris, in june this summer. I consider it a new "La dolce vita", somehow inspired in that film, and Fellini's art, and very much the film of Rome and its society today. A great film, in my opinion. And the photography is also excepcional!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast for your eyes (& your ears)!, January 25, 2014
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
The team of Toni Servillo in the lead role as the sybaritic critic and novelist (having only ever written one successful novel 20 years before) playing out the role of Jep Gambardella, one of the oldest swingers in Rome and directed and co-written by Paolo Sorrentino, have again hit pay-dirt. I hope like the previous "Il Divo" it achieves another Oscar nomination!!

At 135 minutes it is a movie that will either envelop you with its stunning visuals (right up to the end of the closing credits in fact) and intelligent script or leave you thinking it is way too long and over indulgent. Many of Sorrentino's normal trademarks are here - the use of different dance and music to great dramatic effect; beautifully composed visuals, though his continual use of tracking and crane shots can get a tad tiresome; a wide cast of strong supporting actors that serves Servillo's immaculately attired but tired and acerbic persona well; and, the story of a man having lived the high life being woken up to face his demons - but what lifts this film to a higher level is its love affair with Rome.

The use of locations and few studio sets (with some amazing use of animals for key scenes) shows off the beauty of Rome and its architecture to great effect. Top that with a story centered around the Italian wealthy who live and party in Rome has led inevitably to comparisons with La Dolce Vita of Fellini and Antonioni films of that era. But with little reference to the recent politics of Berlusconi and modern Italy this is an exploration of the current vacuousness of living within Rome's elites both in the Arts and interestingly the Church, given the Vatican's presence within Rome.

The script is razor sharp throughout. The outright or latent bitchiness on display, leads to many great one-liners or acidic exchanges. This is beautifully captured in a scene where he openly tears into a friend at a roof top party after she challenges him to disagree with her. His Svengali female midget magazine editor, pragmatic housekeeper, friends including the widowed husband of his early love and a blossoming relationship with a 40 year old stripper (a fine performance by Sabrina Ferilli) who is killed, all add to the growing emptiness. This leads to Jep’s encounters in the final section with a cardinal in line to be pope who is happier espousing food recipes over religious advice and a Mother Theresa clone from Africa whose simple life of piety and suffering contrasts so dramatically with Jep’s.

Many reviews of this film seem to still pine for the New Wave Italian cinema of the 60s – this latest opus from Sorrentino and Servillo shows for me Italian cinema is very much alive and well in the 21st century!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece - one of the best films of all time, March 30, 2014
Wow! Wow! Wow! The Great Beauty is as if Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni awoke in present day Rome with EDM and iPhones and co-directed one final epic bacchanal together. I want to go to the parties in this movie - oh, my. So much fun. This is one of the great films of all time.

For film lovers, don't miss it - get it on Blu-Ray, sit back and be prepared to be run over by the steamroller of Sorrentino's vision.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reply To The Egregious Miss Sarah and Miss Silvia, March 25, 2014
By 
Modern (Chicago, Israel) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I saw this film in the theater and consider it one of the two or three rewarding and truly great films of 2013, not one of the said films being your Hollywood scam-films BTW. I very much look forward to seeing it again on Blu-ray. So I take it personally and feel compelled to respond to ignorant "reviewers" who see fit to criticize it without knowing what they are talking about at all. "Miss Sarah" and "Miss Silvia", two of the virago-"reviewers" on this panel: You are obviously a lot smarter and have far better taste than I and the thousands of Academy Award voters who chose this wonderful film as Best Foreign Film of the year 2013. Together with "Twelve Years A Slave" - another NOT-A-HOLLYWOOD scam-film, but nevertheless won its highest award; such an irony indeed - it will be among a pitiful handful from 2013 that will endure.

What demoralizes me about Amazon "reviewers", in general and the two Misses in particular, is first, their stupidity. They openly and self-confidently confess to "not getting it" or "not liking it". Has it ever occurred to these "reviewers" that "not getting it" and "not liking it" are admissions of defeat, especially with regard to a film that is unmistakably serious, demanding, and complex, and therefore reflect BADLY on them? No, they wear their stupidity like a badge of honor. Second, their circular, self-serving smugness about their stupidity: "Because I did not get or like this film, it must therefore be 100% truly awful" rather than it's because of me and my deficiencies as a human being and as a "reviewer". No, that would NEVER be the problem although when you get right down to it, that is plainly what the problem is, the frustration of a deficient mind (and heart) about a work of art that eludes them, that is beyond their intelligence and limited capacity for understanding and empathy.

I think that Amazon "reviewers" - myself humbly included, a very occasional "reviewer" at best - will always say more about themselves than what they're "reviewing" or writing about. The required level of understanding, openness, and dare one say it, cosmopolitanism, which is the only enlightened and useful way to approach any new work of art, is very low indeed. It's partly because Amazon is more interested in "democracy" rather than literacy. As such, the level of arrogance, which is usually driven by bias and provincialism, is depressingly high.

In the end, it is nothing more - and nothing less - than a reflection of the state of our contemporary culture itself, that is to say, we ourselves, who are presently living in a mediocre age. Yes, of course, movies (and all other "media", including books) have never been so bad. The one consolation of living in a culturally "down" time such as ours is precisely the very few books and films that somehow transcend the pervasive mediocrity. We will need to wait for another fifty years or so for the next Golden Age, which always happens once the culture is able to see past its technological "advances" and superficial marvels. In the case of the history of film, that has been the cyclical case since its inception, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, i.e., that our total absorption with Technology will inadvertently and indefinitely prevent enduring, timeless work from being made, with rare exceptions such as "The Great Beauty", an instant classic and a great film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Beauty is a metaphor and an illusion, July 25, 2014
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The Great Beauty is a metaphor and an illusion, because life itself is a metaphor and an illusion. Jep's first book, The Human Apparatus, written when he was just 25 years old was a truly inspired work, created by the power of his touch of the feminine (anima) on a youthful beach long ago. "Why did she leave me," is the question he keeps asking over and over.

Now it is 40 years later and Jep is 65 years old. He is cool and sophisticated, and the center of attention at every party and gathering. But he lives a life without inspiration. The endless parties are only a frenzied dance leading to death. "The conga lines at our parties are the best in Rome," he observes, "because they don't go anywhere."

The Great Beauty is superbly written and sumptuously told. It is the human story of triumph and failure; lost meaning and hope for redemption; a contrast of mediocrity and sublime beauty… and best of all, it has a thought provoking provocative ending that doesn't disappoint.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should have won best movie -- of the decade, June 28, 2014
By 
Jane (Rochester, New York United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Great Beauty (English Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
I did not go to see this when it played in theaters -- was put off by the trailers showing party, party, and the loud music. But, knowing it won Best Foreign Film I eventually brought it home from the library -- and watched it, and watched it again. (Then I watched La Dolce Vita, so I could understand the references to Fellini.) Now I want to watch The Great Beauty yet again.

What is so great about the film? 1. The characterization. Jep is an articulate, thoughtful, ambitious man who is capable of insight into himself and also capable of sharing it with others. But he is not without flaws -- apathy, vanity, overindulgence. But he is real, and completely absorbing. 2. The portrayal of the people surrounding Jep-- their stories, their characters -- are brilliantly done, diverse but totally coherent within the framework of the movie 3. The photography of Rome in all its glory. Watching the film I thought I really want to see Rome, but reflecting later, I realized I would never see it in real life, walking dusty streets, as I was given to see it here -- the aerial views, the sweeping panoramas, dropping down into the courtyards and terraces. You need to view several times just to be able to take it all in 4. The music. Especially the gorgeous haunting The Beatitudes, which I have continued to listen to after watching the movie. 5. The wealth of wonderful little details like the walk on cameo by Fanny Ardant -- you see this the first time you watch-- but it really takes several viewings for all these details to "make sense" as part of the whole.

I nearly didn't bother to see this movie -- it got so little play -- and -- what do you know -- best movie I have seen in more years than I can count. Bravo.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty of existence, June 8, 2014
Taking place over what seems to be a few days around the main character's 65th birthday, "The Great Beauty" illuminates life in all its wonder and complexity. The protagonist (with the unlikely name "Jep"), a writer whose renown rests on the success of the one book he wrote many years earlier, attends parties, spends time with friends, and experiences the ordinary events of life - there is no "plot" or character arc other than his admission that he has spent his life searching for "the great beauty" without finding it.

Throughout the long (around 2 ˝ hour) film, there are many gems of observation. One of Jep's friends says goodbye to him upon revealing that after 40 years in Rome, the city has "disappointed" him, so he is leaving without saying goodbye to anyone else or even taking any of his belongings with him. An elderly, ascetic nun who has devoted her life to caring for the poor in Africa, defends her decision to not give interviews by explaining that when one takes a vow of poverty, one does not discuss it - one lives it. At one point, Jep learns that a woman he dated in 1970 and has not heard from since, has just died. Her husband tells him that he broke the lock on her diary in order to read it; Jep asks if he can also read it, and the husband says that he already threw the diary away. A man is said to have the keys to the most beautiful buildings in Rome, entrusted to him by "princesses" (who are shown to be elderly ladies); someone asks if he is a "doorman," and he says no, he is simply "trustworthy."

These are only a few of the glimpses of revealed truth in the film. The theme is supremely ironic - "The Great Beauty" may be one of the most beautifully photographed films I have seen in a long time - every shot is exquisitely framed and composed, but the characters seem unaware of the unspeakably lovely world they inhabit. The outstanding soundtrack, a mix of classical and contemporary music, is often revealed to be actual music within the film's action, rather than mere "background."

Not recommended for everyone, "The Great Beauty" requires and rewards close attention. It's an outstanding achievement and beautiful in every sense of the word.
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