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Trailer: The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty is Paolo Sorrentino's powerful and evocative tale of hedonism and lost love, and an extraordinary depiction of contemporary Rome - where life is a performance, and the city its stage.

PT2M4S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-310ey 620 349

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

THE GREAT BEAUTY
(MA, 142 minutes). Opens Thursday.
★★★★

Sensuality, satisfaction and decay are at the core of Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, an outstanding film where the first two qualities are forever haunted by the latter. Set in a Rome where the relics and ruins of millenniums past silently regard the current residents, this is a movie where the camera moves with an arrestingly gorgeous sweep even as it captures the heartache of the unfulfilled. When first seen, impeccable in a suit with his hair slicked back and cigarette in place, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) appears to have few problems. Celebrating his 65th birthday in his penthouse apartment, Jep is literally the life of the party. Four decades earlier, successful novel in hand, he arrived in Rome and descended into ''the whirlpool of the high life''. He hasn't been up for air since. Told soon after that his first love, who is remembered in flashbacks having left him in 1970, has died, Jep is not so much shaken as surprised by his own emotions. There are tears, but his soul-searching is suitably idiosyncratic. Jep visits old haunts, but comes away with a new girlfriend, stripper Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), whom he squires to a funeral, cloistered museums and his bed. This is a return to Italy for Sorrentino, who directed Sean Penn - made up like the Cure's Robert Smith - in the oddly engaging American journey of This Must Be the Place, and the chance to reunite with Servillo. The gifted actor was a stiff-shouldered mystery as an Italian prime minister in 2008's remarkable Il Divo, but here he's the soulful epitome of the stylish and jaded. A journalist, Jep visits a performance artist camped at the ancient aqueducts sighted in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, but Sorrentino's film has its own feel for Rome and the Romans. When a longtime friend challenges Jep he dismantles the version of her life she has crafted, but sympathises with her despair because he and everyone she knows is in the same fearful position. Like everything in Jep's immaculate orbit, The Great Beauty circles an outcome but doesn't pursue one. His assignations, whether with a Botox technician treated like a cardinal or a cardinal fixated on recipes, summon the ludicrous and tragic. In this fine film, like life, little separates the two.