Screened as part of NZIFF 2013
In Paolo Sorrentino’s intoxicating cinematic fresco of contemporary Rome, Toni Servillo plays Jep, a long-stalled writer and wealthy bon vivant whom we first meet turning 65 in grand style. A visit from the widower of an old girlfriend provokes unexpected invigoration of his dormant creative instincts. Critics were stupefied when this astounding film left Cannes prizeless.
“A gorgeous movie, the film equivalent of a magnificent banquet composed of 78 sweet courses. It is in the classic high Italian style of Fellini’s La dolce vita and Antonioni’s La Notte: an aria of romantic ennui among those classes with the sophistication and leisure to appreciate it. The grande bellezza, like the grande tristezza, can mean love, or sex, or art, or death, but most of all it here means Rome, and the movie wants to drown itself in Rome’s fathomless depths of history and worldliness…
Toni Servillo is wonderful in the role, his sad-eyed gaze made more intense with blue contact lenses. He is not disappointed by life, nor even by the people who fail to realise that life is disappointing, but endlessly tolerant, with the weary elegance of a vampire. This movie looks and feels superb, it is pure couture cinema… It is a brilliantly executed, glitteringly hypnotic film, one of the very best in the festival and it is time for Toni Servillo to get his best actor award here.” — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“It’s an exploration of all things surface, yes, but it has soul too, and just as the supremely controlled and refined Jep surprises himself by crying at a funeral, so the final power of The Great Beauty surprises us too.” — Dave Calhoun, Time Out London