Paolo Sorrentino is back. He of Il Divo, The Family Friend, The Consequences of Love and the woefully under-seen and under-appreciated This Must Be the Place has a new movie opening this Friday in New York (next Friday in L.A.), and it's Italy's submission as Best Foreign-Language Film. THE GREAT BEAUTY (La grande bellezza) is a film of exactly that. What else would anyone who appreciates international cinema expect of Signore Sorrentino (shown at left), who, to my mind, produces frame for frame the most beautiful compositions of anyone working in the medium today and then elides them into something both mysterious and spectacular. (His cinematographer here is the great Luca Bigazzi -- Kryptonite!, click and scroll down -- while the film editing is by Cristiano Travaglioli.)
One Man Up, has ever been released in the USA, theatrically or on DVD), The Great Beauty seems to me to be the film that requires the most full understanding and appreciation of Italy, and specifically, Rome.
Fellini and his La Dolce Vita and 8-1/2, as though The Great Beauty were an updating of these a half century later. And in some ways, it is. But Sorrentino is so much subtler a director than was Fellini that any comparison goes only so far.
Toni Servillo (above)-- is a place of great beauty and desolation/desiccation, of wonder and horror. Yet the images this writer/director chooses and uses, instead of reducing their subject to the cliched visuals of Hollywood horror or beauty, instead often brings you both in the self-same shot. Intellectually, the movie is constantly pulling you up short, as well as pulling the rug from under your preconceptions.
My Kid Could Paint That, and even more so the recent and much fawned-over documentary about artists and relationships, Cutie and the Boxer), we see what goes into the creation of "modern art"; religion shows its silly faces in both a Mother Teresa-like character and a prominent Catholic high-mukety-muk.
Janus Films, opens this Friday, November 15, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema; on the 22, it opens in Los Angeles at Landmark's NuArt, and over the next few weeks it willl opens at another 15 - 20 cities. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates.