Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starrring Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso
Starting with one of the finest Gin and Tonics I have ever had the privilege of consuming (pricey yet wonderful), my experience at the newly opened Curzon Canterbury was one of the best in recent memory. The décor evokes an atmosphere that teleports you out of time itself, upon first impression I felt like I had wandered into The Black Lodge from Lynch’s Twin Peaks with its retro charm. It is an establishment with a lot more gravitas than your average picture house that whilst appeasing a more seasoned cinemagoer also functions a beautiful social establishment. The Curzon’s three screening rooms are compact yet provide great sound quality and superb seating, offering more than enough legroom for those that suffer from the curse of the long-legged. With ragtime piano playing upon entry, the perfect tone is set for what will be a memorable cinematic experience.
The feature that I attended was the 2013 Academy Award winning Italian film, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty).
I had no prior knowledge of this film before stepping inside, except that it had been critically exclaimed for its performances; specifically that of the leading man, Toni Servillo. Directed by esteemed auteur Paolo Sorrentino, the film revolves around the life of aging socialite, Jep Gambardella, who has spent his adult life in Rome working as a writer for a popular magazine. Reaching his sixty fifth year with a grace not shown by many of his age, Jep is a character that is not only experiencing a midlife crisis, but is in the midst of coming to terms with the culture of excess that surrounds him. Among his friends are models, actresses and modern artists whom have failed to embrace the honest life of the deeply religious city in which they live. A constant contrast of the elderly and the next generation is present throughout, with the older members of cast acting with the façade of a far more promiscuous and carefree lifestyle than expected by their own offspring. The modern Italian youth is presented as equally if not more flawed; the weight of academia taking its toll as the millennials fail to find their place in society in the midst of their progenitors wake.
Visually the film is breathtaking with the imagination of the director drenching what can at times be a very visceral and thought-provoking two hours. The city of Rome becomes a character in itself with its archaic roots intertwined with the twisted yet sophisticated sub-culture of the modern flâneur. Expect to be confused with spectacles such as a giraffe in the Coliseum and the side effects of the hedonistic party life; The Great Beauty never ceased to intrigue me.
Without sounding as pretentious as the culture that Sorrentino is satirizing in his piece, The Great Beauty is a lot like life itself and that is why a character such as Jep Gambardella is so compelling. It can be confusing and monotonous yet completely awe-inspiring.