The Great Beauty Blu-ray Review
Great Beauty is a
film that will divide
audiences. On the one hand, it provides viewers with lush
cinematography and a
glimpse at Rome. It has a snarky, dark sense of humor and it has the
uniquely cold detachment while maintaining high artistic sensibilities
frequently displayed: from the colorful glow of the parties to the lush
landscapes of the environment in the storyline. The Great
Beauty is from director and co-writer Paolo Sorrentino (Il
Divo), and it has won numerous praise (some of it quite well deserved).
won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2014
Awards. Yet I
am confident that the film will not appeal to everyone, including
because it is also a film that is dark, unsentimental, and a bit smug
presumed intellectualism. (I rarely use the word in critiquing films,
found this to be a pretentious effort).
Gambardella (Toni Servill) was once the life of the party. He came to
Rome as a
young man and made a name for himself and joined the wealthy socialites
city with a vigor that made him famous and well-respected amongst the
inner-circle of the rich and popular people. He lived life going to
staying up all night, and going to bed once it was morning. He knew
everyone and almost everyone knew him. Yet sometime along this journey
living a relatively carefree and superfluous lifestyle he realized
that, as he
sees it, Rome is no longer a rich, great place of adventure and beauty.
wishes he could leave Rome but he also sees no point now that he has
of his life living there.
to regret the way he has spent several decades of his life and he
the fact that he wrote only one novel when he was young and how has
time for another one. Throughout the movie he continues to come up with
why he is incapable of following it up with another book. He conducts
interviews for a publication as his only source of creativity, but he
the people he interviews and feels detached. He critiques them as he
interviews, providing a sort of mocking disinterest. He mocks
openly) his circle of friends (if they can truly be called that), and
like a person consistently too good for those around him. Jep is an
unsentimental person who has earned a name for himself for partying and
social but he no longer seems to care, and he wonders around pondering
existence and past with cynicism aplenty. Yet some viewers may
him anyway, in some fleeting moments.
the most important scenes in The Great
Beauty, Jep coldly tears apart the lifestyle and lack of 'reality'
of his female friends. The scene ends with her seemingly fragmented by
and unrelenting words. This scene represents his coldness to others and
himself. It really is a fundamentally important part of the film as the
majority of the story focuses on his poor relations to others and to
of the film is essentially to follow the life of Jep as he has strange
encounters with the people of Rome - both those he once knew in life
new individuals he had never met before. Throughout the film there are
of contemplative monologues given in what is strange and experimental
something one might find in the works of David Lynch). It intersects
foundation of experimentalism found in Fellini's 8 1/2
and his other works, while borrowing heavily from his
stylistic experimentation and focus on Rome. The fact that Sorrentino
experimental with the film is something that can sometimes work to its
the best scenes in the film, the story shifts to focusing on a young
is simply wanting to spend time playing with her friends. Yet her
rather she go make a painting for them. We soon discover that she is a
who makes abstract art that sells for millions. Presumably, her parents
of the proceeds (and even use some of them to host such lavish parties
they won't even let their daughter play with her friends).
goes to make the painting, everyone watches her make the art happen.
crying and is seemingly quite depressed. Coldly, Jep (who is at the
comments that she has no reason to be unhappy as she makes millions.
result of the painting looks stunning, but it is also just another
with splashes of color everywhere and no clear meaning. One wonders
is trying to convey here. I can't help but think it is a critique on
the audience's relation to it and an inquiring moment into whether or
is worth it if the artist's own work isn't something that comes from a
happiness. It's such an unusual scene and it seems so fascinating to
me. I know
there is a deeper metaphor here, but perhaps I am a few steps away of
absorbing it. This scene may have been a longer extension of the
art critiques cemented into the film about Rome and the upper-class
has done an excellent job of providing The Great Beauty with ample style. It's
a well-directed film with a lot of artsy camera-work from one scene to
next, with rarely any of the films many sequences seemingly poorly
filmed as far
as technique is approached. The partying sequences are effectively
loud, over-the-top, and screeching in their overwhelming appearances.
symbolism and experimentalism (as seen when a Giraffe makes a weird
appearance in the film) adds some flavor to the artistry. One scene was
filmed at exactly the same place Fellini filmed a sequence (this is
during the on-disc interviews). Sorrentino's ability to do that sort of
recalling of a past cinematic outing fits with the strong nostalgic
tone set by
the entire film's plot.
that truly made an impression on me with this film was its sense of
The entire thing has a sad aura to it that permeates the entire story.
thing is that Jep is not someone who is even remotely happy the entire
storyline focuses on his nostalgic thoughts on what came before without
proposing much at all as being possible for the future. It makes the
effort pessimistic and something harder to absorb and appreciate.
thing about the film is probably the performance given by Toni Servill.
or not audiences like the character, he makes Jep seem convincing as a
nostalgic former party-magnet turned cold, aging, and cynical critic of
and everyone else. He manages to carry almost every scene in the film
is something truly worthy of praise. From his strange smile to solemn
Servill makes the character interesting.
does not fully succeed, though. I feel as though it has too much
display; too much abundance of cynicism. There is even a subplot that
suggested as a romantic plot, where Jep discovers that a former lover
youth (who he knew for one summer) has passed away and had written in
that he was the love of her life. The husband now seems heartbroken.
the news with little emotion shown. He acts both unsurprised, unmoved,
uninterested. Yet over the film he sometimes reminisces about her and
together. But one gets the impression it is not a story of lost love
it is just another extension of his thoughts about himself and his
loss: despite the fact he doesn't seem to have thought of her until the
brings her back into his life. (This is entirely open to
course). The husband then shortly moves on, showing a detachment from
and the husband. I found this entire sub-plot rather bleak. It's a
and disheartening part of the storyline.
find the film to be a bit unfocused: over 40 minutes of footage
intended to be in the film was cut out in the version finally released
public. I wonder if that cut would have been even more unfocused or if
have made the film more linear somehow. Take, for example, the opening
film: it takes around twenty minutes for the main character to be
The rest is simply a showcase of Rome and of partying: then, at the
there's finally an introduction to Jep. I found the film to be a bit
and uneven and this intro works perfectly as a prime example.
there is a lot of stylistic splendor to explore in the filmmaking, I
past the seemingly smug pretentiousness of the film's off-kilter
attempts at intellectualism:
in its odd take on discussing modern politics, the world of art, the
Rome, and of people in general. Everything seemed so cynical and cold.
my movies with a taste of hope and some positivity. The storytelling of
The Great Beauty never even considers to
be positive. It's universally a bit of a downer.
Great Beauty has
been presented on Blu-ray with a richly detailed MPEG-4 AVC encoded
Definition transfer in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The highly filmic
both fitting for the nostalgia of the film and it provides the audience
more rich scenic view of Rome. The presentation is from the 35mm
the source quality is exquisite. This is certainly a impressive and
transfer with good clarity, detail, color reproduction, and the
free of DNR and other imperfections found with unwanted digital
of The Great Beauty will certainly
marvel at how impressive the film looks in High Definition on this
audio option is the original language Italian audio (as it should be).
has been given a detailed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Presentation, which
has provided with a high quality lossless encode.
film's soundstage wants to impress it does so with great bass
surround usage, and overall immersion. Yet the sound design alternates,
sometimes slowing down and only focusing in on dialogue (which is also
reproduced). Some sequences are so well-designed from the audio aspect
a number of sequences (such as the many party scenes of the film with
to music reproduction), while other moments in the film are simple and
behold. In managing such moments, the stellar lossless audio
a good job balancing surround enhanced scenes with scenes that sound
what one might expect from a slightly expanded stereo audio
each moment of the film, the clarity and crispness of the audio is
subtitles are provided.
does not disappoint in the extras department with another fine
materials. Even the packaging is a beauty with the well-designed
housing the Blu-ray, 2 DVD's, and the booklet with a essay by critic
Lopate that is informative, well-written, and quite interesting to
other extras, the on-disc supplements are all presented in 1080p High
Definition on this release.
with Toni Servillo (13
min.) is a interesting
interview with the lead actor of the film about his experience working
and on other films with director Paolo Sorrentino. He talks about the
and the overall process.
with director/co-writer Paolo
is a in-depth discussion with a film critic conducting the interview
enthusiasm and intelligence -- the wide range of the questions and the
sometimes surprising answers given by Sorrentino make this an excellent
addition to the release and it should fascinate even those who were not
on the film. Without a doubt this is the most notable supplement on
and it's a truly effective interview with some fascinating insights
with co-screenwriter Umberto Contarello (12
min.) talks about the writing process,
working with Sorrentino,
and about some of their quirks as a writing-team. This piece is the
and least informative, but it still provides some much appreciated
the foundations behind the making of the film.
Trailer for The Great Beauty
release, Criterion has provides around six minutes of excised footage
form of one entirely removed scene and a montage that shows viewers
and clips from the wide array of cut footage (which was possible
initial cut of the film was over 3 hours long). It's only disappointing
entirety of these deleted scenes were not provided.
I would have liked to see the supplemental section actually contain
cut. Considering my mixed feelings about the film, I think it would
nice to compare versions, and to see what exactly Sorrentino had in
the film initially. Yet I have absolutely no idea if this version was
fully completed post-production, which is the seemingly possible reason
to only contain select deleted footage instead.
Great Beauty is
going to be a film that is
polarizing to a lot of viewers. The entire experience of the film is
unusual and not so pleasant, but that doesn't stop it from making a
One issue with the film reside
in the fact that the entire effort feels like something inspired by
great classics of foreign cinema, yet it doesn't seem even
remotely close to matching any of the classics that shaped it,
nor does it manage to convey something
mesmerizing and emotionally resonant. Instead, the film is a effort
expresses itself through cold detachment that is both uninvolving and
audiences will love the film for its rich cinematic styling's, I found
to be a disappointing effort that was too bleak for my own interests in
I imagine many other viewers will leave their experience of watching The Great Beauty with a similar reaction
so exploring the film with a rental before purchase would be a good way
approach this film. There's a lot of aspects of The Great Beauty to praise
artistically, but not necessarily a lot
that would make me want to revisit this cinematic world.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.