La Grande Bellezza

First of all, it isn’t La Dolce Vita all over again, as I thought it might be when I first saw the trailer a month or so ago. As the director Paolo Sorrentino says in an interview, Fellini’s movie is a true masterpiece, but I don’t think that is the distinction that needs to be made. It isn’t La Dolce Vita because, despite the long orgy sequence at the beginning, it is downright melancholy in tone. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t fun and in many places even funny. It’s just that it’s now fifty years on, and what was sweet and charming in a decadent sort of way has grown a little stale. A lot stale. Chic Marxist politics, if it ever was anything other than a tired cliché, is here shown to have grown very stale indeed. Performance Art, pretending to be cutting edge drama, fails even to rise to the level of nihilistic and ends up laughable. If the beauty of young women in cocktail dresses wandering amidst the fountains of the eternal city was a sign of all that was possible in 1960, middle-aged satyrs and hags at a botox party is an even bigger sign for just how far we’ve fallen. This is Italy in the death spiral the demographers keep telling us about. If Beauty will save the world, it isn’t merely for being beautiful—it’s for showing in high relief just how ugly our world has become. That’s the story of The Great Beauty.


  1. It’s been on my list for a while.

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Was it a wrinkled boomer orgy scene? Great review thanks. Modern day Italy is depressing.

    Someone should re-do the seduction scene from The Hunger using two obese 50 year old lesbians.

  3. Hasn’t yet come to San Diego. Soon, soon.

    • Just finished it. I enjoyed it. Visuals, music are all good, but the lead actor has a great face and presence.
      Will be on the lookout for your review.

  4. will check it out. thanks!

  5. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    If Beauty will save the world, it isn’t merely for being beautiful—it’s for showing in high relief just how ugly our world has become.

    See also Dana Gioia’s recent poem ‘Pity the Beautiful’:

  6. Early front-runner for Best Picture of the Year. Certainly one of the greatest depictions of sanctity I have ever seen.

  7. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Just caught a screening.

    Recalls the best of Wong Kar-wai.

    • What do you consider his “best?” Is his best worth watching? (I loved La Grande Belezza, btw)

      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


        In the Mood for Love is Wong’s best film, and is very well worth watching.

        LONG ANSWER:

        I haven’t seen everything of Wong Kar-wai’s, and I haven’t loved everything I’ve seen, but I’ve seen and loved enough to count myself as a confirmed WKW fan — and to recommend his work to anyone who enjoyed the wonderful La grande bellezza.

        His best movie, of the ones I’ve seen, is In the Mood for Love, which would also be a good intro to his filmography.

        My own favorite — and the closest to La grande bellezza in theme, protagonist, storyline, and (possibly) style — is the flawed but intoxicating 2046, probably a good second or third Wong film to watch.

        In the Mood for Love and 2046 share a few characters with each other and with an early Wong film, Days of Being Wild. The three films — made and set in the order 1) Days of Being Wild, 2) In the Mood for Love, and 3) 2046 — are independent, self-contained stories that interconnect only loosely; think Audrey from Metropolitan and Ted from Barcelona popping up in Last Days of Disco. You don’t need to see any of the films in the ‘trilogy’ to understand any of the others, though themes echo and reinforce each other. Days of Being Wild happens to be available on Netflix, and it, too would be a good introduction to Wong’s work.

        Another good entry-point to the WKW œuvre (and my own first WKW movie) is Chungking Express, which has great energy and a delightfully absurd sense of humor, touched with wistfulness. Fair warning though, my brother: Even if you’re usually immune to the supposed charms of the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ archetype, you might end up crushing on the one in this film. Or so I’ve heard.

        So there you have it, Paul; do with this information what you will. If you do end up sampling WKW’s films, I for one would very much like to read your opinion. But no pressure!

        • I’m definitely going to check out those films sooner or later. My library has Chunking on the rack (Quentin Tarantino presents…) but I could never decide whether it was going to be worth my while. The rest, I”ll obtain through various channels.
          I don’t think manic pixies will be problematic. I’ve just realized my weakness is for uber-fetching-Steubenville-educated types. And that Julia Flyte’s got nothing on her (former) short hairdo doesn’t help matters!

      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

        By the bye, back in ’08, our Mr Finnegan wrote a good little essay on In the Mood for Love. You should probably wait to read it until you’ve seen the movie.

  8. Not sure what to think of this but file it under, #today in ruins, porn among the ruins, today in Gosling.

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