Once again, beauty takes the form of Rome, exquisite cinematic vision and a journey that will live you breathless. An unspoken homage to the place that lived as main character in the movies of Rossellini or Fellini, La Grande Bellezza is the latest attire of the Eternal City- a Rome that pulsates with aliveness, in a movie that makes your heart burst. It is one of those movies that display such beauty in themselves -chromatically, in dialogues, in the story- that you feel shrinking into yourself due to their overwhelming power. There are some works of art so breathtaking, so ferocious in their impact on your senses that you at once develop the most acute form of Stendhal syndrome and find yourself numbed from all that beauty. And this is exactly how I felt while and for some time after watching La Grande Bellezza.
Remembrance of past times and forgotten memories is very Proust-like and Rome unravels as an appealing madeleine that takes us down its streets full of history, art and a smell of intriguing yesterdays. Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo) redefines the joy of dolce far niete, taking it to the next level- a refined lifestyle that we are allowed to grasp through his eyes. Decadence and debauchery beautifully translate into women, drinking, eating, drugs and partying. In-between, Rome keeps its splendour for the chosen ones and denies its grace to the unfortunate tourists, the last of each drops dead for the sinful audacity of turning its back to its music and poise. Rome belongs to itself, not to the inquisitive eyes of the rest of the world and Jep holds the keys to all its lavish secrets. The magnificence of Rome feels like looking through a kaleidoscope of peculiarity in which a skillful puppeteer's hand has shovelled them all: the cardinal, the stripper, the magician, the nun, the dwarf editor, the mute, the bald, the ugly. Immune to all and open to everything, Jep's lethargy comes to an end when, lost among faceless friends and acquaintances, news from its past great love knocks at his door. The husband of his first love -eighteen is the most unfortunate, yet the essential moment to encounter amore- reveals that his dead wife took her eternal love for Jep to her grave and this bitter revelation takes him back, down the memory lane, to a beautiful summer, of beautiful people and beautiful feelings. Little by little, composure is shaken and the shield of numbness that Rome has wrapped around Jep's heart melts away and his memories of the purest feeling lead to turmoil and bitter tears. Mortality becomes visible and soul-searching, necessary.
Tony Servillo has natural charm and aristocratic movements, gliding on and above, in and out his beloved Rome, a spectator of its decandence and past glory. Can a man be defined by the city he inhabits? Can we grow into being extensions of a self-eating, agonizingly beautiful city? Good actors make it feel possible and simply grab you from the ordinary comfort of your existence to stir your senses and challenge your mind. Modern day Rome has lost its lush, reminiscent of past emotions and fears. Jep Gambardella, under the skillful touch of great Tony Servillo, is its voice, asking la grande question: where can beauty be found? Is it in the glorious past, in the opulent present or in the unexpected future? Beauty is to be found not in the plastic surgery interventions or the incredible dresses, yet beauty is within. We are merely the translucent mirror that reflects it upon the world around us. Beauty is brought to life by love and together they give meaning to life. Obviously, they glitter in a unique manner in the Eternal City, in a movie that no loving mortal should miss- La Grande Bellezza.