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Watching "The Great Beauty"
Published on March 5, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review 2013's Oscar winning best foreign film, "The Great Beauty."

Here's an excerpt:

"For the first hour of 'The Great Beauty,' this year’s Oscar winner for best foreign film, I was convinced it was one of the best films of 2013. But the film runs for about 140 minutes, and by the time it ended, I was far less certain. 'The Great Beauty' is a feast for the senses and an unforgettable sensory experience — but what does all the flash, pageantry and debauched exuberance really add up to? I’m not sure.

Helmed by the talented Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, 'The Great Beauty' is the latest in a long line of films about soul-sick Europeans who have grown weary of living lives devoid of meaning and purpose. The film’s obvious spiritual forbear is 'La Dolce Vita,' the legendary Federico Fellini film about a gossip writer awakening to the shallowness of his decadent, party-filled existence. 'The Great Beauty' also owes a debt to the works of fellow Italian Michelangelo Antonioni, who spent his career exploring the lives of people who are highly educated, wealthy and completely bored with themselves, their friends and life in general.

'The Great Beauty’s' protagonist is Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), who is celebrating his 65th birthday at the utterly intoxicating rooftop party that opens the film. (Sorrentino is second-to-none when it comes to filming party scenes.) Jep is a writer who penned a highly acclaimed novel 40 years earlier, but never followed it up; today he writes fluffy, entertaining articles for a magazine. His real vocation, it seems, is hob-nobbing with Rome’s high society and hosting all-night shindigs. 'I’m a writer. I’m not a pimp,' he tells someone. Given the lavishness of his lifestyle, it’s easy to see why he feels the need to draw a distinction."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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