Yesterday my study of beauty led me to the movies, to see Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) (2013), a film which has been described as Sorrentino’s modern take on the themes of Fellini’s La dolce vita.
La grande bellezza is a film about Jep Gambardella, a journalist (and a stalled author) who at 65 gradually starts awakening from a slumber of intellectual paralysis (a delayed mid-life crisis?!). Jep wrote a novel once, but instead of continuing on the artist’s way, he wandered off into upper bourgeoisie party life – as a journalist.
At first sight Jep’s story might seem superficial, but there is a development in his understanding of beauty that actually is rather interesting; it’s worth noting that among the women he comes to celebrate are his very ordinary housekeeper; his editor – a lively blue-haired dwarf; and an ancient, toothless nun who eats nothing but roots.
What really struck me about the film though, wasn’t so much Jep’s story, but the magical visual scenes and the marvellous use of music. The film straddles the profane and the sacred, the great pointlessness and the great beauty – an incompatible span – very well reflected in the soundtrack, which jumps from techno to contemporary classical music in one and the same take. Demonstrating how the profane and the sacred are, as always, inexorably intertwined.