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The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 30, 2014 by  



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Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” is a cinematic masterpiece and a Criterion Collection Blu-ray +DVD release that is simply a must-own!  Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 Indigo Film, Babe Films, PAthe Production, France 2 Cinema. 2014  The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 142 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

Story by Paolo Sorrentino

Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello

Produced by Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano

Associate Producer: Vivien Aslanian, Carlotta Calori, Romain Le Grand, Guendalina Ponti, Muriel Sauzay

Co-Producer: Fabio Conversi, Jerome Seydoux

Music by Lele Marchitelli

Cinematography by Luca Bigazzi

Edited by Cristiano Travaglioli

Casting by Anna Maria Sambucco

Production Design by Stefania Cella

Costume Design by Daniela Ciancio

Starring:

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella

Carlo Verdone as Romano

Sabrina Ferilli as Ramona

Carlo Buccirosso as Lello Cava

Iaia Forte as Trumeau

Pamela Villoresi as Viola

Franco Graziosi as Conte Colonna

Giorgio Pasotti as Stefano

Massimo Popolizio as Alfio Bracco

Serena Grandi as Lorena

Vernon Dobtcheff as Arturo

For decades, journalist Jep Gambardella has charmed and seduced his way through the glittering nightlife of Rome. Since the legendary success of his only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and elite social circles. But on his sixty-fifth birthday, Jep unexpectedly finds himself taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the lavish nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome itself, in all its monumental glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. Featuring sensuous cinematography, a lush score, and an award-winning central performance by the great Toni Servillo, this transporting experience by the brilliant Italian director Paolo Sorrentino is a breathtaking Felliniesque tale of decadence and lost love.

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“La grande bellezza” (The Great Beauty) was awarded “Best Foreign Language Film” at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the BAFTA Awards and the British Academy Film Awards.

An Italian/French co-production between Medusa Film, Indigo Film and French Babe Films, in Europe, the film would receive critical acclaim worldwide.

And for filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (“This Must Be the Place”, “The Consequences of Love”, “Il divo: La spettacolare vita di Giulio Andreotti”), he would receive critical acclaim once again as for his creativity and directorial style, so well-revered that he would be compared to legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini.

And now Paolo Sorrentino’s masterpiece “The Great Beauty” has received the Criterion Collection treatment with a Blu-ray +DVD combo release.

“The Great Beauty” revolves around a man named Jep Gambardella (portrayed by Toni Servillo) and begins with the following:

To this question, when we were young, my friends used to answer always the same way: “Pussy”. I instead used to answer: “The smell of old people’s houses”. The question was: “What do you really like in life?”. I was destined to sensibility. I was destined to become a writer. I was destined to become Jep Gambardella.

Jep is a socialite who is famous for a book he wrote 40-years prior and now as he turns 65-years-old and people he once knew are dying or going through major life changes, Jep takes a look at his own personal life through his interaction with others, reminisces of his past success and failures.

But also to look at the city of Rome, beyond the parties, cafe’s and nightclubs and to discover a beauty and creativity that he never saw before.  The beauty of life and a life of what could have, has now been lost.

VIDEO:

“The Great Beauty” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The one thing that you will noticed about this film is the artistic cinematography courtesy of Luca Bigazzi but also the wonderful editing by Cristiano Travaglioli.  I’m not sure how many cuts were made for this film or even if the film was storyboarded to include so many cuts but the editing is flawless, the cinematography is breathtaking, exciting, titillating, so many words that I can use for this fantastic film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 2:35:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.”

As for picture quality, the picture quality is fully detailed and looks magnificent.  From the vibrant outdoor scenes, the birthday scene, everything looks magnificent from the closeups to the various cuts that feature gret color and deep blacks.  Or showcasing the colorful wardrobe of Jep Gambardella to the closeups of the Sister or Jep’s hair, everything is fully detailed.

AUDIO/SUBTITLES:

“The Great Beauty” is presented in Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  And as dialogue is crystal clear, the film is also known for its fantastic musical soundtrack.   The dialogue and music is simply crisp and clear and Lele Marchitelli’s score is fantastic.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The fim features a fully digital soundtrack.  The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered at 24-bit from teh original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702” comes with the following special features:

  • Paolo Sorrentino – (37:59) Film scholar Antonio Monda interviews director Paolo Sorrentino.
  • Tony Servillo – (12:35) Actor Tony Servillo discusses working with Paolo Sorrentino in “The Great Beauty” and how they have worked together for previous films.
  • Umberto Contarello – (11:44) Screenwriter Umberto Contarello discuses working with Paolo Sorrentino and working on “The Great Beauty”.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted scenes – Maestro Cinema and Montage.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “The Great Beauty”.

EXTRAS:

“The Great Beauty – The Criterion Collection #702” comes with a 28-page booklet featuring the essay “Dancing in Place” by Phillip Lopate.

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As a person who loves to visit museums and can spend hours looking and observing the paintings from different centuries, with each painting, you can feel various emotions that comes with each works of art.

In cinema, there are filmmakers who are able to captivate you because they create cinema creatively, artistically and for the most part, they work outside of the paradigm of cinema and often you see magic.

And quite often, especially when it comes to cinema, you often hear about the old days, the wonderful films that were created in the past.  From classic avante garde, Italian neo-realism, French Nouvelle Vague, 50’s Japanese films and among your Rossellini, Fellini, Gaudi, Renoir, Truffaut, Godard, Tati, Kurosawa, Ozu to name a few… there is always a sense of wanting to go back to the classics.

Quite often you find people who will say, “I wish films today were as good as the films back then”.

That’s because there is that wanting of creativity, spontaneity and while there are filmmakers today around the world who strive for creativity in cinema, the fact is that as films are more expensive to make, box office returns make or break a producer and budgets are tighter than ever, there is little room for filmmakers to be creative and do something remotely close to what we have seen in yesterday’s classics.

But once in a while, you come across a film that no doubt makes you feel that connection to the past.  And for filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, his masterpiece “La grande bellezza” (The Great Beauty) brings us the artistic, creative visual flair of cinematic exuberance, many cuts and some that play with its catchy music.

While there are moments in the film that are humorous, mildly sexual and vane, there is the other side of life that the character of Jep is trying to see with his own eyes.

It’s a life in Rome that he chose not to live during his younger years, choosing to be in the social scene and living a life of a star. It’s a conundrum of personalities that we find Jep often thinking in his head.   From seeing the nature of those in society but then part of him clinging to a memory or wanting something from the past that he can not find in the present.  Is it a woman?  Is it the changing of Rome?   What is it that he is searching for?

He goes to those involved with the church in hope for answers and what we get is a surrealness that draws you in, like a painting demanding an emotion from its viewer.

And yes, I’m sure there will be comparisons with this movie to Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” but the primary difference is the setting of yesterday, versus a man who grew up with a Rome that is much different that Fellini’s film from the past.  Similar in terms of men searching for something within their lives, but different in terms of timeline.  This is not about Italian neorealism or life post-war, this is about people who have saw their lives changing within the times and what makes Italy what it is today.  May you see it in a positive or negative light, what we do know is that Jep Gambardella has suddenly become detached.

And this is the journey of this man who is able to have a foot in high society but also in regular society.  He dresses quite suave but not over-the-top.  He is a man not trying to add another woman to his score of sexual encounters, this is a man who wants more than a beautiful woman.  Now that he has turned 65, the rules of life have changed and this is his next chapter.

Of course, we are shown various surreal scenes, may it be a beautiful nude woman ramming her head towards a wall and bleeding from her act of promoting “art” or a young girl throwing buckets of paint on canvas while she uses her hands to smear the pain as many onlookers watch.  There are so many scenes that are sporadic but yet engrossing, once again, it’s like going to a museum and viewing many paintings.  The film required multiple viewings for myself, to see if I can grasp the purpose of the many cuts in the film and of course, Jep’s scenes as well as countless others who are part of his search for answers in his life.

And as I have to credit Toni Servillo for his wonderful performance as the main protagonist, part of the film’s efficacy relies on Paolo Sorrentino’s crew.  From its montage of shots from various angles and closeups, the cinematography, the lighting, the editing, the locations of where this film was shot, this was no doubt a carefully planned film from beginning to end and the results are magnificent.

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray+DVD release of this film is absolute gorgeous.  Picture quality and audio quality is amazing and as for special features, interviews with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, screenwriter Umberto Contarello and actor Toni Servillo are included.

Overall, Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” is a cinematic masterpiece and a Criterion Collection Blu-ray +DVD release that is simply a must-own!

Highly recommended!

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