REGRETTABLY I HAVE NOT SEEN much of Fellini’s great movies, but I did long ago catch a good swath of La Dolce Vita, and its lovely, life-embracing traipse through Rome was brought to mind as I watched The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), Italy’s Oscar-nominated feature film, and a leading contender to win. Tom Long, The Detroit News:
Sorrentino [the Director] delivers gorgeous images, crazy images, startling and sexy and serene images; it’s a visual bath of sorts — the great beauty is everywhere
Indeed the beauty of Rome is on display, presented in accomplished, lyrical cinematic sequences. But therein lies a problem with this movie: its strings of storylines, though connected via a central character, feel a little like a series of connected short films. This is in part due to its use of something seen only in European (generally French) films: extended intellectual conversations that don’t do a lot to advance the film’s story. Upon reflection, these discussions are meant to provide as much substance as the film’s action, and that again points to a lack of meat at its core.
But there were extended periods where I loved this film — at times it absolutely soars. Besides the lovely cinematic bits, I grooved to some of the other sequences, especially the dance-jam at the beginning of the film. For those of you who haven’t seen a good Italian or French film in a while, The Great Beauty will quench that thirst. This is a movie you can sink your teeth into — a bath, to use Tom Long’s term — that you can dive into, and then splash around for a while. There’s a lot to like here, it’s just too bad that a strong plot is not included. So on balance, 7/10 — which places it just behind This Is the End on my 2013 list.
Now I really must endeavor to catch up on Fellini… and Bergman… and Kurosawa
One final note: If you watch the trailer below and don’t have the urge to immediately run out and see this movie, there’s a disconnect.