LA DOLCE VITA REDUX: The Great Beauty and Tom at the Farm

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great beautyIn 1960, Federico Fellini gave us one of the greatest films of all time, La Dolce Vita, a savage look at society Italiana at the time, as well as a heartbreaking character study of a journalist who, by the end of the movie, is totally and spiritually lost (La Dolce Vita also gave us the word Paparazzi for those who like to play Trivial Pursuit).


It’s been more than fifty years since that seminal film found its way into cinematic history and today we have The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezze), from screenwriters Umberto Contarello and Paolo Sorrentino, who also directed.  This time, though, the movie is a much more vicious and savage look at Momma Roma’s inhabitants and the writer, a journalist, is totally and spiritually lost from the beginning of the film.

I think the comparison is very apt because The Great Beauty feels, in many ways, as if it were a sequel to that earlier film, that is, if the central character were still alive and only 65.  When I told a friend this, his first question was, but is it like the neo-realist Fellini or the Fellini after 8 ½? 

His reaction when I said it was of the later was not the most of positives, but people should be forewarned.  The Great Beauty is not like the Fellini of Rome: Open City (yes, I know, he didn’t direct it, but he was a writer on it, so there), La Strada and Nights of Cabiria.  This is the wild and deliriously dreamlike Fellini of Amarcord, Roma and Cassanova. Continue reading

Review of Il Divo

Il Divo is based on the life of Giulio Andreotti, a Prime Minister of Italy, a corrupt but successful politician elected to Parliament seven times. Needless to say, he got away with everything he did. The movie throws names and faces and incidents at you like they were pies in a silent film. It’s almost impossible to keep it all straight (I talked to my best friend in Chicago who said that he had no trouble following it because he read all about Italian politics when these incidents were taking place—which hardly seems fair). But after awhile, one does finally let go and enjoy the roller coaster ride. Andreotti is played by Toni Servillo with stiff back posture reminiscent of the bad guys in The Triplets of Belleville (and one can’t help but think if anyone mentioned his hunched back, he’d parrot Marty Feldman of Young Frankenstein). Servillo was also in the blockbuster Gomorrah, which seems quite appropriate if dangerously serendipitous. The screenplay is by Paolo Sorrentino who also directs with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The seeming refusal to things seriously makes the whole thing a lot of fun and all the more serious, though the difficulty of following it robs it of the maximum emotional impact it might have had.