Watch The Great Beauty
- 2 hr 22 min
The 2013 Italian film, The Great Beauty, is a mesmerizing and poetic exploration of Rome's beauty, decadence, and disillusionment. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the film centers around Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a wealthy and elegant writer who is turning 65 years old. Jep used to be a rising star in Rome's cultural scene, but he has been living off his acclaimed novel from forty years ago and his status as a socialite and gossip columnist for a glossy magazine. He has not written anything substantial since then, and he spends most of his days attending lavish parties, mingling with the city's elite, and reminiscing about his past. The film's opening scene sets the tone for Jep's detached and melancholic outlook on life. He is standing on his balcony overseeing the panoramic view of Rome's rooftops and monuments, listening to a Japanese tourist's awe at the city's majesty. Jep agrees with her statement that Rome is the most beautiful city in the world, but he adds that it is also a trap. In his eyes, Rome is not just a physical space of unrivaled splendor, but also a mirage that deceives and hypnotizes its inhabitants with its fake allure. This duality of beauty and emptiness, attraction and repulsion, is the central theme of The Great Beauty. As Jep's birthday approaches, he starts to reflect more intensely on his life choices and his creative impasse. He meets with old friends and acquaintances, each representing different aspects of Roman society, from the decadent aristocrats to the disillusioned intellectuals, from the trendy artists to the religious fanatics. Jep listens to their stories, their fears, their passions, and their regrets, but he remains aloof and skeptical of their claims to authenticity and significance. He knows that they are all trapped in their postures, their clichés, their masks, and their vanities, and that their creative and emotional energies are depleted by the city's excesses and contradictions. He also knows that he is no exception, that he is a parasite of Rome's vanity fair, and that his introspective musings are just a form of self-indulgence. However, something shifts in Jep's mind when he encounters a young stripper named Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), who is new to Rome and looking for a way out of her bleak existence. Ramona's rawness, simplicity, and sensuality awaken Jep's dormant desire for connection, authenticity, and beauty. He starts to see Rome and himself through her eyes, with a mixture of wonder and horror, and he realizes that he has been ignoring the real sources of life and love for too long. He embarks on a journey of rediscovery, seeking out the hidden corners of the city, its mysteries and secrets, its joys and sorrows. He also confronts his own mortality, his own fears, and his own greatness, and he discovers that his writing can still incarnate the soul of Rome, even if it means facing its agony and ecstasy. The Great Beauty is a stunning cinematic achievement, a feast for the senses and the intellect. Sorrentino's direction is masterful, alternating between dazzling visual set-pieces of Rome's landmarks and nightlife and intimate character studies of Jep and his companions. The film's cinematography, by Luca Bigazzi, is extraordinary, capturing the city's light, color, and texture with a kaleidoscopic eye. The soundtrack, by Lele Marchitelli, is a sublime mix of classical and contemporary music, both ironic and poignant. The film's performances are superb, especially Toni Servillo's tour-de-force portrayal of Jep, a man who is both a legend and a loser, a man who is aware of his own absurdity and dignity. The other actors, such as Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, and Galatea Ranzi, bring to life a gallery of memorable characters, from the pathetic to the sublime. The Great Beauty is not just a film about Rome, but also a film about Italy, Europe, and the world, at a time of crisis and confusion. The film depicts a society that is losing its identity, its values, its history, and its dreams, and that is drowning in a sea of kitsch, consumerism, and superficiality. The film is a critique of the empty spectacle that dominates our lives, a search for the real meaning of existence, and a celebration of the power of art to transcend it all. The film invites us to open our eyes and hearts to the great beauty that surrounds us, and to find our own voice in the midst of the noise.