Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)

'The Great Beauty' won this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year and the equivalent award at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Clearly it is highly regarded by those who assess these things in the industry but for much of its length - and it is a long film - I found it pretentious and tedious.

And yet in the hours after seeing it I mulled it over in my mind and re-evaluated aspects. There was more substance to the film than I gave it credit during the viewing. Obviously it was worthier than my initial viewing had me thinking.

The main character - Jep Gambardella - is a published author. He published one book 40 years or so earlier than the contemporary events in the film and his reputation lies mainly from that and his social jottings for a magazine. His circle of friends all wonder when he will produce a follow up book.

Jep spends his time amongst the fashionable people dispensing sometimes opinions to them which they scarcely seem to recognise as being insulting. Perhaps they are cowered by his superior manner.

His world is one of considerable beauty; his apartment overlooking the Colosseum in Rome is superbly located and he is always dressed to perfection whether formally or in casual mode. The homes of those in whose lives he moves are like museums. There is no ugliness in his life, or rather what might otherwise seem ugly is exotic or bizarre rather than negative.

I thought most of these characters were horrible - maybe beautiful but horrible nonetheless. Looking back there were some telling scenes. Two standout in my memory. In the first, dozens of partygoers watch silently as a child works herself into a state of hysteria throwing paint onto canvas to produce a  work of 'art' that they no doubt will battle each other to spend a fortune purchasing. Later, Jep hosts a lunch for a Mother Teresa like character with one guest in attendance a Cardinal whose spiritualism ranges from exorcisms to dispensing recipes for cooking rabbit.

There are many interesting images in the film which is only fitting given its title but in real life I'd run a mile from this mob.

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