'Welcome to The Good Life'
Through his recent film making excursions it has become apparent that Paolo Sorrentino shall inherit Fellini’s mantle. Whether that is his conscious objective is up for the debate of critics (who do this sort of thing professionally) but on a cosmetic level - and make no mistake, this is cosmetic film making at its finest - the comparison is deserved.
Consequently, La Grande Bellezza - better known outside the EU as ’The Great Beauty’ - emerges as an ode to films like La Dolce Vita. For those whose patience for film runs as deep as their soda cup Sorrentino’s latest work is unlikely to seduce. This is baroque Italian fare - ponderous, atmospheric, lacking narrative conventions ordered of it by typical Hollywood dogma. The major change is tonal, replacing the good natured hedonism of the Fellini decades with a biting cynicism for all that has typified Berlusconi’s Italy.
Without descending into a diatribe on the film’s stylistic influences its worth noting that - as previously pointed out in A Single Man - costume design plays an integral role in the overarching arrangement.
Designer Daniela Ciancio spoke at length about the use of horror vacui in the film and how Jep (longtime Sorrentino collaborator Tony Servillo) literally fights off the boredom of stuffy Roman socialites with an array of bold jackets by Boglioi and Attolini. In a city where the old ways are pitilessly rejected in lieu of vacuous performance art; and cosmetic surgery forms part of a balanced diet, Jep stands out as an erudite cipher. Admittedly by the standards of non-Italians his comportment screams of the monied upper class but Sorrentino and co have carefully composed the protagonist in a manner that behooves closer examination. If you think Jep is bored, wealthy, and reasonably lethargic you’d be right. But you’d only be partially right.
Jep’s outfits all fall within a recurring color wheel and for all intents and purposes he continues to wear the same skin day and night. There is a uniformity to his appearance, an indefatigable loyalty to the hidden Rome of old that - when discovered afresh - literally takes one’s breath away. Sure, there are luscious reds and yellows peppered throughout this visual feast, but one get’s the sense these aren’t merely grandiose overtures designed to conceal nothingness. Rather, they simply are Jep - they are reflections of the man himself, and a continuing romance with the mirage that is his idea of Rome.
Forget street style and the endless stream of advertising masquerading as journalism, La Grande Bellezza should be what is pinned to inspiration boards for many years to come. The film evokes a style that marries all the sensations great art brings to the fore. There is beauty, melancholia, the brooding self discovery of ennui and immanent charm.
P.S. - Total shoutouts to the gawd thepuertoricansocialclub for putting this film on my radar. Grazie mille, my friend.
STYLE | ETERNITY