Director Paolo Sorrentino’s epic and soaring tribute to Rome is rather like a modern update of Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ that’s similarly structured with vignettes, encompassing an abstract mixture of excess and internal decay.
The story of a writer, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) in his 60s who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth via extravagant parties with the director’s camera moving with sophistication and elegance over his life of expensive sex and upper class socialising.
So, the film invites the viewer into his decadent lifestyle – both aimless and dizzying with instant gratification.
The film is not without large doses of sentimentalism of course however the daring visuals and soaring soundtrack make ‘The Great Beauty’ something like the best of Italian cinemas great canon from such directors as Fellini or Bertolucci.
Sorrentino is interested in the effect that people have on their city and his Rome is built on networks of vaguely mournful parties and nightclubs and middle-aged hedonists that add up to one man’s vision that reflects his own inner turmoil.
There's a lovely romantic quality to The Great Beauty, expressed through its shining visuals, but also a sense of genuine emptiness, and of a man, be it Jep or Sorrentino himself, searching for some meaning in a world where wealth, power and fame are prized above true beauty.