BEAUTY fades. Get over it.
Not anymore. Once the beautiful people were twentysomethings, while suburban squareheads in the summer of love guffawed at The Seven Year Itch, found La Dolce Vita decadent and believed that hallucinatory drugs would scramble their brains.
Now there are makeovers, makeunders, Botox and surgery to lessen the anguish of nature’s revenge.
Jep Gambardello (Toni Servillo) arrived in Rome as a good looking provincial lad decades before Berlusconi corrupted the nation’s fine traditions of sensual appreciation. Not only did he write a critically acclaimed first (and only) novel but aimed to become part of high society’s party elite and become the Truman Capote of his time.
Now celebrating his 65th birthday he witnesses a 21st century revival of erotic exotica, a fresh rave culture in which sexuality and artistic expression are one and the same. Naturally cynical, he deplores the emotional depravity of this love online generation and the unconditional surrender of good taste. He is not a snob so much as a voyeur of social change. Witty and well dressed, only too aware of ageism’s cold complacency, he attends the burlesque for want of something less stimulating to do.
Life has not passed him by so much as honoured the style in which he wasted it. Tired and alone, he has his memories and his regrets while flaunting his position as the oldest swinger in the night garden.
Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino makes Fellini’s wild excesses look tame. The Great Beauty is a movie of genuine originality and visual delight.
The cinema has waited a long time for a creative maverick to shake the foundations of accepted practice. Suddenly, the perception of genre labelling has been shredded in favour of imaginative freedom.
Beauty doesn’t fade. It reinvents itself.