The Great Beauty (Italian: La grande bellezza) is a 2013 Italian film directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
The film opens with a quote from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” The main character is an aging socialite, Jep Gambardella, who once wrote a famous novel in his twenties, only to retire into a comfortable life writing cultural columns and throwing parties in Rome. After his 65th birthday party, where he is feted at his plush apartment overlooking the Coliseum, he walks through the ruins and city streets, encountering the various characters, reflecting on his life, his first love, and sense of unfulfillment.
Journalist Jep Gambardella (the dazzling Toni Servillo, Il divo and Gomorrah) has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
Paolo Sorrentino Biography
Born in Naples in 1970, Paolo Sorrentino is one of Italian cinema’s most distinctive and stylish filmmakers. In 1998 his short film Love Has No Boundaries established a relationship with Indigo Films, who have produced all of his films to date. In 2001, his first feature, the dramatic comedy One Man Upi>, won the Silver Ribbon for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. The film also marked his first collaboration with actor Toni Servillo. The Consequences of Love (2004), Sorrentino’s second film, premiered in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival and won 5 David di Donatello Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. The film Il divo (2008), a portrait of the Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, won the Jury Prize at Cannes and featured a stunning performance by Toni Servillo. Following This Must Be the Place (2011), his first film to be shot in America, Sorrentino returned to his home country for the acclaimed The Great Beauty (2013).
“Rome is a place where, more than any other city, the sacred and the profane go together.”
– Interviewed by Larry Rother for The New York Times
“What I find compelling is the moment in which people realize, with suffering and pain, that in the past there was a time when they were happy.”
– Interviewed by David Gregory Lawson for Film Comment
“Rome is very beautiful. But the beauty of the people is sometimes harder to discover. This movie tries to find the beauty that’s hidden.”
– Interviewed by Brian Brooks for The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Toni Servillo Biography
Italian Vogue has called Toni Servillo the “most versatile Italian actor in the history of Italian cinema,” and yet he did not star in a film until he was over the age of 40. Servillo was born in Afragola, Campania in 1959, and knew at a young age that he wanted to be an actor. In 1977 he founded the Teatro Studio di Caserta, and spent the next three decades working with dozens of renowned companies and directors. His breakout film role was in Paolo Sorrentino’s One Man Up, which garnered him several nominations in Italy, followed by The Consequences of Love and Il divo. In 2008 he won the award for Best Actor at the European Film Awards for his roles in both Gomorrah and Il divo. Servillo continues to work in the theater and runs the Teatri Uniti in Naples.