From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (‘The Consequences of Love’ 04, ‘This Must be the Place’ 11) and seemingly owing a lot to Fellini’s seminal ‘La Dolce Vita’ (60), with a similar raft of the well to do social intelligentsia going through existential crises, this Italian film follows main character Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer and one time novelist living in Rome (with a flat overlooking the Colosseum, incidentally) whom we learn never penned a second book as he was searching for ‘The Great Beauty’ of existence. A strong vein of comedy permeates this semi-surrealist consideration of the human experience, but it’s never really, to use a bit of a juxtaposition, LOL worthy despite the good intent. The undeniable sophistication of the conceptual artwork of the film is grand, but I can’t help but feel there exists a depressing smugness to not just the movie, but also many of the characters – garish in their almost nihilistic narcissism.
The avant-garde direction is at its most successful when capturing the frenetic and hedonistic atmosphere of the several florid and somewhat debauched parties that the main characters like to throw for one another, like a sort of extended cerebral series of art house Carlsberg ads (although here the product placement is very obviously for Peroni, whose ads have of course also alluded to ‘La Dolce Vita’ and Anita Ekberg’s classic scene in the Trevi Fountain). Someone I spoke to after the screening concluded that they had no idea what this film was about, but they were certain they liked it, and would probably go and see it again. I’m not sure it merits a second viewing (says I, going to see the not quite so high brow R.I.P.D again), but giving it the once over is certainly justified, and there are some nice touches – like the end credits playing over the top of footage of the Tiber in Rome, for example.
‘Baby, it’s You’ by The Shirelles, a version of which featured in the Peroni ad, followed by the original fountain scene from ‘La Dolce Vita’