The ambitious and visually stunning drama directed by Paolo
Sorrentino recalls the likes of Federico Fellini's half-century
old "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2" in its portrayal of Rome's high
society and an artist's existential dread.
"Fellini was undoubtedly a great influence on me," Sorrentino
said through an interpreter from Rome before his departure for
the March 2 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
"I tried not to imitate him but it is likely that it is still
deeply ingrained in my subconscious," he added. "There are
similarities. However, today's world is different, and therefore
my film is also very different."
Fellini himself won the foreign-language Oscar four times, the
most of any director in that category.
"The Great Beauty" has been tipped by Oscar prognosticators as
the frontrunner for the statuette as it vies against Denmark's
"The Hunt," Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Cambodia's
"The Missing Picture" and the Palestinian Territories' "Omar."
If the film wins, like it did earlier at the Golden Globe awards
and the BAFTAs, Britain's top film awards, it could give Italy
its 14th foreign-language picture Oscar statuette.
"The Great Beauty" ("La grande bellezza") begins at the wild,
rooftop 65th birthday party of Jep Gambardella — played by Toni Servillo — and follows the writer through self-reflections and
his search for meaning among Rome's idle rich.
BEAUTY AND THE BANAL
The film takes Toni through the endless dinner parties, affairs,
insecurities and hedonism of Rome's haut monde while the city's
every door, ranging from a grand Botox lounge to a private
Renaissance art gallery and access to a revered cardinal, opens
at his beck and call.
Naples-born Sorrentino, 43, said Rome and the banalities of
everyday life served as an inspiration for the film, which,
although a drama, exuberantly pulses along with each shot
accented by vivid color.
"There's that wasting of time that we all do and how we tend to
focus on things that are useless and yes, somehow, these useless
things are beautiful in and of themselves," the filmmaker said.
The ultimate playboy bachelor who dresses each day in tailored
wool suits, Jep awakens to his existential conundrum at his
birthday, reflecting on youth, unrequited love and a soulless
Servillo, 54, who also starred in Sorrentino's 2008 film "Il
Divo" about former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, like
Marcello Mastroianni's Marcello character in "La Dolce Vita"
shares the screen with Rome as his costar.
Jep's posh apartment, afforded on the success of his sole
published novel that he wrote at age 25, sits across the street
from the Coliseum with a dramatic view from his rooftop patio.
"Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it
can exemplify what Italy is like," said Sorrentino.
"The film is called 'The Great Beauty,' and I wanted to compare
and contrast the beauty of the city itself with people who don't
realize that this beauty is all around them."
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Andrew
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