The Great Beauty starts with the most polarizing opening scene of 2013. It’s a perplexing demonstration of tourists visiting Rome with a choir singing in the background while a person collapses, presumably as death washes over them. The movie then quickly jumps to the nightlife of Rome, following journalist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo, in a great central performance) as he continues living life to what he sees as the fullest; or rather, engages in some debauchery while hoping to control the life of a party. Paolo Sorrentino’s film is deliberately surreal and mind-boggling, and I feel as if much of the film’s narrative effect passed over my head. There are moments that feel inauthentic in terms of points the movie’s making, but they are rare; it’s one of the most beautiful pictures of the year in terms of its composition and cinematography. The movie’s ridiculously ambitious, which I admire wholly, but it’s also inaccessible and borderline impenetrable at times, despite its satirical nature and whimsical stylings. Multiple viewings will probably enhance my appreciation of the film, since I simply think the film’s excellent right now. A few more viewings could show the masterpiece many see it to be. 

Grade: ★★★ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun