So few films really exemplify their titles the way that ‘The Great Beauty’ does.
Not only is the film visually stunning, but on the flipside, the film finds ways to not only become emotionally ‘beautiful’ but also exploitive of the not so beautiful moments, the moments glossed over with a beauty that is not wholly admirable or lasting. ‘The Great Beauty’ is, without a doubt, a film about life in its entirety and as such it is beautiful and ugly at the very same time.
I hate the saying ‘they just didn’t get it’ even though I have used it in the past. It just feels so passé to say that the reason someone doesn’t like something is because they ‘didn’t get it’. The truth of the matter is that there are times with there is nothing to get, and even at that, we all respond to films (well, life in general) in different ways and with different vantage points and so there are times when something we see in a film is not seen by others simply because, for them, it isn’t there. Who am I to say that they NEED to see the beauty in something that they so clearly don’t. For me, film is such a personal experience, and because of that I gravitate to films that find a way to touch me personally.
‘The Great Beauty’ did that for me.
The film, on the surface, is a simple one. Jep Gambardella is a simple man of simple pleasures who has created a life of luxurious fantasy in the heart of Rome thanks to his solitary contribution to the literary world. Held on a pedestal because of his only novel, and touted by all as an intellectual, Jep finds himself almost suddenly void of meaning upon his sixty-fifth birthday. Despite having everything at his fingertips, and more, he begins looking at life from a very different perspective.
For me, this is where the film stakes its claim and where the beauty lies.
For a film that can appear self-indulgent and exploitive, it is this ‘perspective’ that truly builds the ‘beauty’ in the title. The film’s point is to exploit the self-indulgent, never once claiming relation to the act. The film never glorifies this mockery, but instead uses Jep’s bewildered expressions and eventual self-sabotage as a way to build such depth of character. Here we have a man who is used to having his way with everything and everyone basically having a midlife crisis (a few years too late) and realizing that everything he’s been accustomed to is far from the beautiful life so many think it is.
Throughout the course of the film, Jep revisits the places that have held his hand, his heart and his attention throughout his life and it is through these visitations that he begins to unlock the true beauty of his city, his memories and his life. Weaving through images of beauty, lives of misfortune and tokens of appreciation, Jep discovers the truth behind the façade, and allows us to open our eyes alongside him.
Yes, the film is about the self-indulgent, but for me this was anything but.
With some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve seen put to film, ‘The Great Beauty’ is just that, beautiful. The score settles into every scene, the sets glisten in the majestic lighting, and the core performance from Toni Servillo anchors the film in something so rich, so soulful…so beautiful.
I give this a pretty easy A. So lush and vibrant and deeply personal, this film just feels so rich with personality and meaning. Oscar obviously loved this as well, and while passionate fans of 'The Hunt' were less enthusiastic about this Oscar win, I can't see hating this, for the win was so richly deserved. And this is coming from someone who loves BOTH films.