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'The Great Beauty': The film's melancholy and partying both feel forced

'The Great Beauty' is directed by Paolo Sorrentino of 'This Must Be the Place.'

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The Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino has become a darling of the international cinema circuit for such movies as “Il Divo,” his helter-skelter portrait of politician Giulio Andreotti, and “This Must Be the Place,” starring Sean Penn as a mumbly, scraggly rock star. I found both movies, in their very different ways, borderline unwatchable – all posturing, little substance. His latest opus, “The Great Beauty,” Italy’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, is a kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria starring Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, a famous journalist living lavishly in a Rome that seems to feature at least one bacchanal per evening, with the Coliseum often serving as a backdrop.

Sorrentino has set out to out-Fellini Fellini. There are so many gaping mouths, splayed limbs, and gargoyle grins in this film that Fellini’s heirs should sue. Gambardella, who wrote a celebrated novel, his only one, years before, is turning 65. This puts him in a ruminative mood, which means he doesn’t always join the conga line. The melancholy in this film is just as trumped up as the frenzy. Grade: C- (Unrated.)

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