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we got movie sign | by maryann johanson

The Great Beauty review: pretty ugly

The Great Beauty red light

As a parody of Italian cinema, it’s tedious. Except we’re supposed to be taking this seriously. As if.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

An old man wanders around Rome, contemplating the decadence of his life and that of his wealthy acquaintances. Nuns caper through formal gardens. A Japanese tourist collapses at a scenic overlook. A creepy nun laughs. At a party, a bored actress — who might become a novelist — declares, “In this shitty country there are never any good roles for women.” (With this snide observation, The Great Beauty thinks it has properly recused itself from having any, too.) At a swanky strip club, our hero, 65-year-old Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo: Gomorrah), commiserates with another miserable old fuck over how pathetic the 40something stripper they’re observing is. Can’t someone find her a husband, or something? Always, there is vaguely ecclesiastical singing. Or maybe it’s light-operatic? Whatever it is, it fits right in with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s parody of Italian cinema. What’s that? We’re supposed to take this seriously? As if. A little girl runs screaming at an enormous white canvas and throws paint on it; she makes millions. Jep complains to his housekeeper about how he doesn’t know how to cope with mornings now that he is considering giving up partying. Will he give up attending performance art and botox orgies? He shows up at such events because he is a journalist (we’re told) and he’s presumably going to write about them. But journalism for him appears to be primarily a distant rumor. Mostly he rolls his eyes — literally and metaphorically — at it all. He’s jaded, you see. Such a tragedy for him, I’m sure.


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The Great Beauty (2013)
US/Can release: Nov 15 2013
UK/Ire release: Sep 6 2013

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (contains sexualised nudity and hard drug use)

viewed on my iPad

IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Pat DeAngelis

    I think your review is a parody , not the film

  • SZ

    You’re an idiot.

  • Reminder: If you want to disagree with me, do it by presenting an opposite argument. Insults will be deleted.

  • SP

    Reminder: if you want somebody to present am “opposit argument”, you have to present first a review with some kind of analysis. There is no “argument” in the idiotic rant that you wrote.

  • sd

    Reminder: you’re a deluded idiot, incapable of writing anything interesting and of tolerating any form of dissent. Now delete this post too.

  • Matt Clayton

    When I saw the trailer, I was puzzled. What was it about? Why should we care about this grizzled old man? It is refreshing to see your dissent among the others falling in love with it, it’ll help temper my expectations when I do see it.

    The cinematography though… quite stunning. Might work as a silent travelogue of Italy better.

  • Nicola

    That’s one of the worst review I ever read. I am sorry, but you clearly have missed the point of the words said by Jep during the entire movie. The movie is about a country that prefers to live in the lies for a better and common life instead of try to understand and accept the beauty of a culture, the italian one, that is going to disappear. Many scenes don’t have a plot or something particular, that’s like a mirror of the useless arguments that everyday take place in our country. All the “bla bla” is what hides the great beauty.
    PS: the great beauty is the family for the most of us.

  • SapientOoze

    If you could only see this as a ‘parody of Italian cinema’ or were unable to ‘take it seriously’ you obviously must’ve entirely missed the point & message of the film. Even with that unfortunate handicap, just the film’s utter visual sumptuousness should be enough to delight any true cinephile at very least. – It’s as perfect a glimpse of the Rome of today as Dolce Vita was of it’s late-50’s/early-60’s Rome. (Even to the point I imagine it might well become even better appreciated in a few decades time as a lense looking back to early-21st century Rome – i.e. a ‘future classic’.)
    – What i will add is, if you happen to be one of those for whom Fellini’s films are merely just tedious then I suspect this is neither the film for you, liable to equally zip ‘right over your head’. (& you’d probably agree with the above review.) – Otherwise ignore it as it offers nothing on the actual film.

  • the film’s utter visual sumptuousness should be enough to delight any true cinephile at very least

    Only if by “true cinephile” you mean “someone one enjoys pretty pictures when they are utterly severed from the context.”

  • Oh, I heard his words. I just don’t think he’s saying the same thing you think he’s saying.

    Perhaps you could explain what “better and common life” was depicted onscreen? Where was the “great beauty” of “family”?

    Also, if you’re saying I have to be Italian in order to understand this movie, then, well, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about not being Italian.

  • Max Urai

    Glad to find someone else who hated this.

  • jack

    No, he has never mentioned that you have to be italian to understand what this oscar winner is about. But you certainly resented the notion of it without being asked, which is telling.

    Sure, anyone who has watched the movie will gladly explain it to you. You are welcome. But since you have problems getting past your superficial disdain for something, may I suggest you to give up on reviewing until you deal with your issues?

    The movie shows the self analysis of a one time writer of old, who has traded any pursuit of art for social dominance. Neither power, or art, or politics, or sex, or religion brought him happiness: he’s a fake, empty main living only through nostalgia while everybody else gravitates around him. Struck by age and the death of his only true love, and later the death of his new lover, he decides to risk what he has to restart his mission as a writer. As he keeps repeating, this movie is the vacant space between his original book and the new novel he will be writing.

    His rediscovery of real life, away from the high life and wrong answers to his personal research, he indeed finds new value in the “better and common life” mentioned by the previous poster. And what is that? There’s many scenes about it, their common theme being simple daylight. The common joes on the streets fascinate Jep, as does his housekeeper, his motherly midget boss, or the husband of his late first love who later marries again, and again the art kids not yet corrupted by show business, or his failure of a mustachioed friend who equally decides to leave the city for good to find a better, common life in his ancestral village.

  • No, he has never mentioned that you have to be italian to understand what this oscar winner is about.

    Nicola said the movie is “like a mirror of the useless arguments that everyday take place in our country.” I have never been to Italy, and I don’t read or speak Italian, so I could not follow Italian media even I wanted to. So how am I to understand what arguments are happening in Italy every day, or even know what those arguments are?

    Exellent appeal to authority with that “oscar winner” comment. The movie won an Oscar, so it’s automatically immune to criticism!

    may I suggest you to give up on reviewing until you deal with your issues?

    Well, that’s it, folks. I’m done. See ya!

  • RogerBW

    A film in which a middle-aged or older man is bored, and sleeps with one or more beautiful young women. Is there really any difference between any of these films? Maybe he stops being bored, maybe he doesn’t. But it pretty much always comes out as “the middle-aged or older screenwriter is writing a fantasy of his worries about ageing, and reassuring himself he’s still a babe magnet”.

    Extra points if the hero is an ageing writer, who did something impressive when he was younger and now wonders if he still has the spark. (Hint: he never really did.) I think it may be a WGA union rule that all members have to vote up films about screenwriters.

  • lorenzo

    I agree with those saying that great atmospheres and pictures are not enough to make a great movie. I live in Rome, and as a Sorrentino and general film enthusiast, I saw the movie well before all the (quite obnoxious) craze about it exploded, both here (where were you all when it came out in theaters, one year ago? Watching blockbusters?) and overseas. But I think that watching it simply because everyone is talking about it and it won an Oscar it’s the ultimate approach NOT to enjoy it.
    Indeed, being from Rome (rather than simply being Italian, which I don’t think really makes a difference) gives a different approach to the experience of seeing this movie: all the lesser-know alleys, streets and landmarks, even in the outer parts of the city – It’s something I recognized and enjoyed because I’ve been there so often; it’s part of my home city. That Rome is stunning in itself (well, at least the historical side of it; the modern side, not really) is indeed a huge help to cinematography.
    That aside, there IS a messagge in the film, and it’s right in the title. A kid splashing paint on canvas – that’s not art. As isn’t a self proclaimed writer or an avant-garde artist hitting her head on a roman acqueduct wall.
    The film IS quite obscure, indeed. But in the end, it all revolves around a man with a subtler sensibility looking for true, subtle beauty – which he can’t even seem to find in three millennia of city history, That’s the point. And, yes, it doesn’t depict terrible, gritty realities like The Hurt Locker or even Argo did, but that’s just the movie it is.

    So, trust me: don’t watch it now. Watch it after the occasional fan craze has subdued, and ONLY if it really interests you, not because it won an Academy Awards. It’s no guarantee you’ll like it (frankly, I think that, after watching it staying focused, it’s still a Hate it or Love it experience – not for everyone tastes), but it will undoubtedly be a better experience.

  • Viola Marku

    You may watch your own media to know whats happening in Italy. Its called International news. Some people skip it because it’s “boring”.

    Anyways, I don’t personally like this movie, even if I’m Italian. I got bored and I think Sorrentino is a great provocateur

  • Oh, for pete’s sake. I’m a news junkie. I’ve got the BBC news channel on in the background pretty much all the time when I’m home working. There’s not a lot of coverage of the arguments that are happening every day in Italy.

  • Maria Rita Maltese

    Maybe it’s correct when someone says that you should live here to understand. Here in Italy is not like a foreigner could think and expect. There’s really the sense of something rotten in the air and no future, especially for young person. All this situation is the result of the power that the environment painted by Sorrentino into the movie, had ( and still has ) on the political life of Italy. This is really the worst moment for my country. Worst in her history…and it’s not only for the economical crisis that we are living…it’s a total values crisis…and yesterday another wall collapsed in the archeological site of Pompei. Mary Ann, I advice you to visit Italy as soon as you can because I don’t know for how long this great beauty will be.
    ( Sorry for my terrible English!!! )

  • SapientOoze

    But that’s exactly my point – they WEREN’T ‘severed from the context’.

    And no, I meant anyone who enjoys rich visuals & story-telling in film format …

    Oh & P.S. – I’m not Italian either & yet had zero problem understanding or appreciating the film. Tho’ I agree it’s probably even more resonant to an Italian. … (I probably wouldn’t go as far as award it an Oscar – but can equally understand why it did earn one.)

    What I object about your IMO unwarranted scathing review is that it’s liable to deter someone who might otherwise really enjoy the movie from ever seeing it, which I think is rather a pity. Had I read your review before I’m pretty certain it probably would’ve put me off (how could it NOT !?) – Hence why I’m mentioning it so others might equally be warned they might very well be missing out if they take your words as fact.

  • LaSargenta

    I’d posit that literate readers of reviews understand that reviews are, by their very nature, not fact and would take that into account. When I was a young thing, I knew that although I could rely on Pauline Kael for her reviews of many films, I was almost always going to disagree on her take on science fiction films, for example. It didn’t make me claim (or even imply) she was an idiot.

    So, if this review would have otherwise made you ‘miss out’ if you hadn’t already seen it on your own, does that mean you normally take MAJ as gospel?

  • You make the mistake of assuming that anyone who “understands” the film will automatically “appreciate”it. I “understand” the film. And I still don’t like it.

  • LaSargenta

    Sorry, but, no. When I want to know details of what is happening in Italy, the last place I go to is the International News of my local news media. I have today’s New York Times here at my desk and in the International Section there is the following distribution of articles (including 1 paragraph ‘articles’ pulled off the wire):
    Russia
    Cuba
    Ukraine (4)
    Israel
    Mexico
    China (2)
    Niger
    Syria
    Vatican City (about a tabloid for the pope)
    No. Korea
    Indonesia
    Egypt (2)
    Iraq
    Britain

    If I want to know about Italy, I call up Italian/Sicilian friends and ask them what they’re seeing on their home news feeds. Mostly, for me, this means I know a lot about 2 places: Genoa and Sicily. Italy still doesn’t feel very unified, all these years after Garibaldi, and the politics, while huge for Italians, seems to be having a fairly small effect on their neighbors. So, other places aren’t necessarily writing about it.

  • SapientOoze

    Yes agreed, I certainly don’t know any ‘illiterate’ ones who’d bother. :) – And I certainly didn’t imply anyone ‘an idiot’, (at least no more than the reviewer implied of Sorrentino.)
    If anything only that the review should be taken as seriously as the critic herself regards the director should be taken. To put it into her own words : “we’re supposed to be taking this review seriously. As if.”…

    And no I don’t, nor couldn’t, take ‘MAJ’s reviews ‘as gospel’ as this happens to be the very first one I’ve read. Tho’ now that I have I’ll be prescient to avoid them in future, as I now highly suspect film’s something we’re bound to agree on often, if at all (probably of any genre).
    But it’s in fact 1st x readers who’d most likely be led astray by such a review. (Unfortunately too many people put trust in reviews without first getting to know the critic’s usual ‘penchant’.)
    – Ultimately I merely wanted to highlight the opposite possibility.

  • Bluejay

    Tho’ now that I have I’ll be prescient to avoid them in future, as I now highly suspect film’s something we’re bound to agree on often, if at all (probably of any genre).

    Good! Then everything’s working as it should. If you strongly disagree with a reviewer’s opinions, you can choose to avoid those opinions in the future. Although, since you admit this is the very first one you’ve read, it seems premature to conclude that you’ll never agree with her on anything. Why not read some of her other reviews first — maybe of other films you’ve liked — before you pass judgment?

    But it’s in fact 1st x readers who’d most likely be led astray by such a review. (Unfortunately too many people put trust in reviews without first getting to know the critic’s usual ‘penchant’.)

    Do you really know people who will decide whether or not to see a film after reading only one review? Well… I suppose they exist. After all, you seem to be a person who will decide what a critic’s “usual penchant” is after reading only one review.

  • SapientOoze

    From what you’d written & then answered to comments, it didn’t seem/sound like you totally understood the film – so, sorry my mistake then. (But then everyone always thinks they ‘get it’ when it comes to movies, even when they essentially don’t. And of course wouldn’t know any better if they indeed had not understood. So that’s neither here nor there really.) ;) BUT I’ll take your word for it. – That you didn’t appreciate it though was pretty damned obvious, (AND which for yourself is absolutely fine of course !) So, just sorry you didn’t like it then. … Perhaps in this case it IS true after all that you might’ve indeed valued it more had you been Italian. (& more emotionally invested in the culture around you & ‘great beauty’ in peril.)

  • And it’s entirely possible, too, that what you “understand” to be the meaning of the film is only your reading of it, and not something objectively inherent in the film.

  • SapientOoze

    Absolutely, that’s one of the beauties of film. Surpassing even the auteur’s vision to touch each viewer personally. (regardless if even missing out on the director’s intended – tho’ that’s certainly preferable, it’s not exactly essential for ‘appreciation’.) – In this case it seems you ‘missed out’ on both. But that’s also fine there’s nothing to be done about it. … Again I stress my only intention was to alert the review be taken with caution. (Not that it actually much matters now it’s earned extra awards ‘cache’, as now in far lesser need of such defending. Had I even been aware of it’s Oscar win at the time of comment I wouldn’t have even bothered.)

  • SapientOoze

    Whilst it’s true this was the 1st review I had read, by the time I wrote the above comment I had indeed perused thru some of MAJ’s other reviews – which is where I gathered the ‘prescience’ to avoid others in future, as indeed I suspect disagreement more often than not. (Please note, I never once siad “never agree”!! – & “bound to more often than not” is more than enough a deterrent for me.)

    Also, there’s just far too many other film reviewers online for me to want to continue wasting time on someone I already suspect will not guide me true to my own cinematic tastes – (or other written views/opinions for that matter.)

    And yes I do think the above review is enough to put someone off seeing the film, or even bother seek reading further reviews, especially if they tend to think they often agree with MAJ’s ‘tastes’.

  • riccardo

    I think all the prizes he took, took them from people who do not understand anything of the film. I saw the movie long before he won the Oscar and I found it engaging, semplicemnete beautiful throughout.Maybe you did not understand the dialogue, a movie is made by those.

  • there’s just far too many other film reviewers online for me to want to continue wasting time on someone I already suspect will not guide me true to my own cinematic tastes

    Bingo! That’s how it’s supposed to work.

  • Andrea

    Se pensi che The hurt locker e Argo siano film crudi e realistici pecchi di ingenuità.

    If you think The hurt locker and Argo to be crude and realisitic movies you are naive.

    This review is the only not Italian that i’ve read that in my opinion centers the point.
    As wikipedia say, there has been a split between anglosaxon critique and Italian , the first praising it as a beautiful portrait of a dacaing country, the second claiming its lack of meaning and the distorted “postarcarded” rapresentation of the Italy of today, as if viewed trought the eyes of a romantic foreigner stucked with the Fellini’s Rome.

    For me? As somebody else surely wrote, i recognize the movie offers interesting visuals, conceptually separated sequences that reveal an important tecnical ability, but nothing that transcends the exercise of style.
    And at the Oscar premiere, with the director giving thanks to such an heterogeneous group of cliched italians characters and passions (Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese, Diego Armando Maradona, the ultras of Napoly Football club, his kids), as an italian, in 2014, i was expecting him to yell from one moment to the next, with a southern Italy accent:
    “PASTA PIZZA MANDOLINO, ITSA ME, SORRENTINO!”

  • Hypathia22

    I spend a lot of time in Rome every year, have many friends there, and although I’m American, I feel that I am also a Roman! This film does not succeed as a political or values film, because it doesn’t depict the vast majority of Romans, who are good people with solid, positive values. The characters in this film are in an elite class owning or having access to grand palaces and luxurious surroundings. They are jaded, self-indulgent and spiritually lost. The only character who realizes this and acts upon this realization is Romano, who leaves Rome returns to his hometown. A better film to inform one about the political/cultural crisis in Italy today is “Girlfriend in a Coma

  • ebird

    That’s exactly how I felt about Wes Anderson’s Sunshine State. And I think you are absolutely right about The Great Beauty. My husband and I finally stopped watching as the director tries, painfully, to bring a slow movie to its slow death.

  • tmf

    you’re ugly.

  • Not sure which Anderson movie you’re referring to: he hasn’t made a film with a title anything close to that.

  • LaSargenta

    Do you mean the Sayles film about family and real estate?

  • gaspareparis

    The movie is just like the painting of the little girl: a patchwork, a minestrone with all the ingredients to win a prize. But no one moment of emotion, al is costructed artificially and ends up just as a pretty boring movie. But good for Hollywood mickey mouse Oscar.

  • Jacob

    After seeing this for the second time I thought I’d add my two cents. I think Jep’s jaded demeanor is important in showcasing the post-modern world we live in. Jep can’t find meaning anywhere. Even the Saint punishes herself hoping that it will make her life worthwhile but at the end she is left only struggling up stairs. The Great Beauty is the work of art we make as we decide our lives one choice at a time. Even if it is all worthless in the end.

  • No, even if that was what the movie was meant to imply, that was not what the saint was doing at all.

  • Why don’t you enlighten us?

  • The trials we set before ourselves in life are all, ultimately, chimerical. It is pointless, a pointless existence, objectively. But in our subjective experience, we find and create meaning through these trials. So, in some senses, the inherently, decidedly, purposefully meaningless rituals, like climbing a stair on one’s knees, like self-flagellation, like walking a labyrinth, are keys to unlocking something special in the heart of meaning, but to find that is not to be told it, you have to live it, like poverty, like the saint said with such pith at the dinner party.

    buongiorno

  • That sounds pretty much like what the commenter you were replying to said. What am I missing? What was your disagreement with the comment you replied to?

  • “Even the Saint punishes herself hoping that it will make her life
    worthwhile but at the end she is left only struggling up stairs.”

    His comment presupposes that the folly is catching her unaware.

  • (any saint would understand that)

    out of page views, see ya never

  • Quirite

    Interestingly, here in Italy (almost) everybody hates it.

    Including myself.

  • inyourface

    Hello,

    soo i casually came across your review and it kind of puzzles me.
    I honestly don’t know where to start but first and foremost i should say that i’m Italian (so please go easy on my English) and that i’m a huge fan of the movie.
    i don’t agree with those who said that you have to be Italian to “understand” the film: if a movie is truly great you shouldn’t need to be Italian to fully appreciate it. Art is an universal language, right?
    That being said, i don’t agree with your take on the movie.
    First of all I don’t understand your point about this movie being a “parody”: what makes you feel it’s one? And then I don’t honestly think that Sorrentino intended his movie to be a documentary, so what is it so outrageous about its lack of realism?

    I personally found the movie to be a truthful experience: it’s not really about a plot or a character, but more about a sense of decadence and shallowness. it’s a depiction of a society (italian? western?) at the pick of its unaware decline: there are Poets who cannot speak, writers who cannot write, priests who are more concerned about cooking that God. …what happened to these people? what happened to us? when we look at our past (roman/western/ you name it) we wonder how our ancestors managed to create such beauty which we are unable to replicate. We are too far from it …

    I don’t think that is easy to like this movie: it’s incredibly long and tedious and it doesn’t have a clear plot. So i understand why you would call it “boring”- but i just think you are missing out a lot by underestimating it. hope you’ll give it another chance.

  • I have no desire to spend any more time on this tedious movie. If art is a universal language, this one had nothing to say to me. It had its chance, and it failed.

  • inyourface

    de gustibus non disputandum est

  • It seems a little like dishonesty-by-omission to refer to someone as “another miserable old fuck” rather than “her father” when that’s relevant to the scene.

  • What, a miserable old fuck can’t be someone’s father? What nuance of misogyny did I miss by not mentioning this? I mean, apart from the fact that a man is watching his own daughter strip. (Honestly, I don’t even remember this detail, but I’ll trust that you’re accurate.)

  • Just that it’s much more common for parents to fret for the marital prospects of their children than random nobodies watching a stripper perform (that would be weird). I get the impression that said stripper dies, because after she mentions she spends all her money to “cure” herself we see someone offer her father condolences.

  • You’re making my point about the film’s misogyny for me.

  • My point was never to dispute that.

  • Okay, so what was I dishonest about?

  • Leaving out an important connection between the characters relevant to the scene.

  • How is that dishonest? How does omitting that change anything about my review? How is it relevant to the point I was making (or to the scene)?

  • It’s normal for parents to consider their children’s lives to be part of their business (even as those children may disagree). Referring to her father as “another miserable old fuck” suggests he is equivalent to Jep with regard to Ramona when they actually have a different relationship. And I said it was “a little like dishonesty-by-omission” because that context makes the scene play very differently.

  • LaSargenta

    Actually, from the sound of it, that makes it most definitely “miserable old fuck” territory. Who willingly hangs out watching their daughter (or son) strip?

  • He definitely is a miserable old fuck: he even wishes his daughter was a drug addict so they’d have something in common! But he’s not an equivalent MOF to Jep.

  • LaSargenta

    >scratches head<

    No? Equivalence doesn't mean indiscernible.

    So maybe they are isomers. Whatevs. Miserable old fucks, in the plural, seems appropriate.

    My apologies for not being deeper about this, I haven't seen the movie as life is short and one has to pick and choose. But, based on the description, I'm not sure her omission is very material, except not omitting it might have made these guys even skeezier.

  • Quite skeezy. But if you haven’t seen the movie you don’t know how important the context is. You’re just talking about whether it’s compatible with the reviewer’s interpretation of skeeziness, I’m reacting as someone who just watched the movie and was surprised the reviewer omitted a vital element of the scene (and was not the sort of “spoiler” material one might expect to be omitted).
    As for who would watch their child strip, another bit of context is that he’s the manager (he had been the owner in the past when Jep would visit after-hours). So the question would be who hires their own child to strip at their club!

  • LaSargenta

    Ok, fair enough.

    Still, I’m perplexed from the description of the movie (not just from MAJ’s review) as to how this would make a thematic difference overall. However, I’m not curious enough to waste a couple hours of my life on the movie. I still haven’t seen Red Army or Tracks or Ernest & Celestine and wouldn’t be adverse to seeing MM:FR for a third time.

    Rock on.

  • We’re going to have to disagree about this.

  • He’s much worse. So I inadvertently made him look better than he is.

  • I’ll take that as vindication :)

  • a
  • Old men oogling naked young woman? Take a guess.

  • Gary Coulter

    You prove Jep’s point that the world is too complicated to be understood by a single person. Unfortunately you prove it about this film. Do you actually know anything about film? If not, then this is fine.

  • Are you suggesting that this movie is too complicated to be understood by one person?

    Have you read “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? I feel like that applies a lot to arthouse films.

    Why don’t you share what your single mind understood about this film?

  • killjak

    Never seen a blind review as this one. The author is focused on the less importants points of this movie. You can like it or not, but it’s a very complex story relating to very complex feelings of a very decadent state (Italy of course)… Anyway, this review is the worthless one i’ve ever reed about this film. Read, study, and maybe, speak. Or keep silent.

  • Danielm80

    If you want to convince us that the movie is worth watching, you might want to explain what’s “complex” about the story, how the movie shows the decadence of Italy, and what important points MaryAnn missed in her review. Otherwise, you’re just saying, “Someone is WRONG on the Internet,” which isn’t a very compelling argument.

  • JG

    You’re right. I should explain. I don’t speak english very well, but I’ll try. There are many issues and it’s impossible to check it all, but the core meaning of this movie is in the final speech, when he says:
    “the haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity”.
    Life, for the director, is a search for beauty, we all are looking for beauty anywhere – much more then a search for the meaning – the protagonist founds the beauty just one time, with his first true love, and when it left he started a meaningless life… but that’s not the point, the director is not talking about love but about existential failure, and that’s why the movie and the protagonist is full of irony, because when you realize your life is destroyed because you’ve been always looking in the wrong places the only thing left to do is laugh at yourself and feel compassion for who is like you.
    Because everyone is strong, and happy and winner in the same way of everybody, but we are defeated by life in different and peculiar ways,
    So it’s misery that makes us unique.
    Art should show the beauty of the ugly, the sincerity in defeat and only art can do it – as he says at the end (“after all… is just a trick. Yeah, is just a trick”) – because it’s a trick, although fictional, it tells the truth.

    Ps. I’m killjak,just logged with a different profile

  • AGuyNamedJames

    Jep is so superior to everybody else by virtue of what? There’s a pretty actor playing him in the flashbacks? When he patiently and after great provocation puts down a Communist who is ranting, the woman turns out conveniently to be a literary hack who got her job by sucking dick. They’ll write him whatever dialogue he needs and make all the facts true. They cannot, however, explain how he’s one bit better than anybody he parties with, because he isn’t. He’s just not insane like the aristocrat’s mad son, or unemployable except as window-dressing like the impecunious prince and princess. And yet, he gets to sleep with a younger and more attractive woman because her life sucks SO badly that even HE could be her savior, if she weren’t too dumb not to kill herself. Typical dame, right, Sorrentino? It’s a misogynistic, snobbish, heap of beautiful high-definition cinematography that tells us if we get rich we can still get laid even when we’re old and homely, and party with the young, and do everything that’s merry and shallow while feeling superior to all of it. And if anybody insults us, the screenwriter will whisper into our ear some nasty facts about the other character that are WORSE, and we can repeat them aloud.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    And this embellished opinion comes from a flick “philosopher”.

    C´est la vie.

  • bronxbee

    meaning what? you take objection to her review because her *brand* doesn’t suit you? this damned review is over three years old. but then, c’est le douche.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    Meaning she is a hack.

    I just came upon her reviews, and definitively had no reason to have this woman´s pseudo criticism on my reading list. And it´s not about her “brand” nor about if I liked the film or not.

    Her “criticism” does not states any appreciation for the formal qualities about what the film is, the arguments are given without any sake for explaining what the film is about and her interpretation is heavily biased by prejudices not stated on her “manifiesto”. There´s not a single clue that she is familiar to the classic films that this one invites to be compared to (those that are supposedly “satirized”); she gives no context at all. The only thing you learn about the film from this “criticism” is that she didn´t “like” it for whatever reasons – in fact, she manages to make it all about her.

    Giving an accurate description of the piece of art is in terms of form and content, constructing and argument around that while leaving the prejudices behind (or at least actually stating the real ones) and giving some kind of context – historical or aesthetic – about it is something I do not only expect from real critics, but it is also you learn while studying philosophy.

    Hence: this “flick filosopher” sucks at philosophizing about movies. (Also read her Ghostbusters and Mad Max Fury Road reviews. Same thing.)

  • while leaving the prejudices behind

    Ah, you’re one of those who thinks there’s such a thing as “objective criticism.” *snort*

  • King Chubasqueiro

    A film exists in spite of you knowing about it or seeing it. So, films are objects with particular qualities that differentiate one from another; yes, there is certain objectivity for your subjectivity to come in. Usually in art apreciation that’s form, which it seems you have little to no idea.

  • Danielm80

    You remember when Alanis Morissette wrote a song called “Ironic” and everyone made fun of her for not knowing what “ironic” meant? Please look up the word “objectivity.”

  • Bluejay

    But did she intentionally misuse “ironic,” so that it would be ironic that she did? Alanis Morisseption!

  • King Chubasqueiro

    Where do you think the “quality of being true” comes from? You start at base perceptions of things or events around you and available to your senses. Hard science call it “facts”. In philosophy the most common referral is “phenomenon”. From phenomenology comes the method to empirically gather knowledge from the objects available to your senses – and then you construct arguments about them.

    Please read some basic books on logic.

  • Danielm80

    All film reviews are subjective. All reviewers are biased. A review is an opinion. Otherwise, it would just be a list of facts about the production.

    If you believe that this review contains factual errors, you should tell MaryAnn what they are, so she can correct them. But she’s given many examples of scenes in the movie that she thought were trite and badly written. She’s more than justified her opinion. You can disagree with that opinion–get in line!–but you can’t say it’s factually wrong, because it’s not a fact.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    Just top of my head,the opening party:

    It’s not only describing the kind of angles or duration shots or lense for technical’s sake: it’s describing how those work in relation to the affection the film is trying to convey and then why it acomplishes it or not for this particular reviewer.

    The cinematography and compositions emphasise colours and the luxury of the location, the clothes and even the drinks. The edition tries to convey the sense of how that party is enjoyed by everybody there. Also the camera captures arbitrary moments that narratively mean nothing but are nice to look at – the sensibility of catching glimpses of beauty werever and whenever they may be. It’s exuberant and long because it tries to represent the idyllic party, the mother of all birthday parties were everybody is beautiful (even a dwarf ) and having a good time (even a shy fat man dances his ass). The opulency of it all will, afterwards, put the main protagonist in crisis.

    Some brief context: it brings to mind La Dolce Vita and some Antonioni films that are all about living life in grand style (good food, good wine, good clothes) and can create an existential crisis, as banal as it could seem to people who can’t afford that style of life. For some reason which I have not experienced first hand, some italian films are obsessed with the “good life”.

    So far: have I stated my “opinion” or just described the film? Am I talking about the film itself or just how I feel about it? I might have missed some things – but the ones I got: do they happen in the movie or did I invented them?

    Then, it’s how I relate – the subjetive part – to the film, and I could add “opulency is banal, and I find it repugnant.”

    When I arrived to that statement at the very least I left the reader knowing that I saw the same film he/she will watch if he/she decides so and gave some clues if it actually may be his/her thing. And also let him/her know this film comes from a certain contex that he/she may be, or not, familiar with.

    When learning and talking about form a film can actually be valued by its particular qualities: yes, there are better films edited than others, better cinematograped films than others, and so on. To learn that comes from watching lots – hundreds – of films and reading and thinking about them.

    About why the film created a certain kind of affection on the reviewer, that’s the subjective part and to express that, experience in life is needed (no wonder why, say, Bergman’s Persona could bore to tears a 12 year old).

    Or forget all that and I could just offer:

    “fucking film about rich, fancy, european people in a ridiculous party sequence that last too long – because, fuck them – why should I care about this?”

    There’s quite a difference.

    What the ffilosopher says about the 40 year old model scene is derisive and even toxic – it says more about the reviewer being angry by not understanding a general consensus on what the scene is about instead of constructing an argument of why she does not agree with the consensus. Bottom line the film (or the general concensus about it) made her angry and the review is about how really frustrated she is about it and those who gave it a positive review – not about discernible reasons about why.

    On rare ocassion Pauline Kael could be derisive but she always stated with clarity why, and where her perception of the film ended and where her particular judgment about it started.

    “Art is subjective” is a lazy excuse for being opinionated and it does not substitute educating yourself about that wich you are supposedly criticising.

  • Danielm80

    When you describe the camera angles, you’re stating verifiable facts about the film. When you say what those angles mean, or how they make you feel, you’re telling us your own, personal interpretation of the movie. Other people in the audience may not feel the same way.
    Some critics enjoy that sort of analysis, and they like to talk about the cinematography for paragraphs at a time. There’s a lot of value in that sort of criticism, when it’s done well, but there’s also value in reviews that focus on the story.
    MaryAnn, in this case, felt that the story was so weak beautiful production values couldn’t save it. You disagree, but she’s provided plenty of evidence to support her opinion.
    You can continue to tell an experienced film critic how to write her reviews, or you can move on to another reviewer whose style you like better. It’s your choice, but MaryAnn has been a critic for about 20 years, and she’s not likely to change her ways now.
    Also, your belief that there’s only one acceptable way to write a film review is more than a little odd.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    “Meaning” happens because of conventions. Conventions happen and evolve through time. That´s another good reason to let know your readers you actually have watched lots of films: so you can distill conventions from true innovations or incompetent film making. Still: everything I said it´s in the film in spite of opinion – and a “idyllic party” may come as subjective meaning but I provided enough description to let you know it is trying to mean exactly that. Further argumentation would require to go shot by shot and I feel you´ll get bored.

    And while we are at meaning, I didn´t mean to tell her how to write her reviews – you asked me to do illustrate with an example what I was talking about. I complied.

    Now, far from being only one “acceptable way” (there are not only several film critics I read – from Sight and Sound to Aint it Cool News – but also there are lots of film theories and schools of though about what is cinema – in fact I´m of the school that thinks that text or story is not what defines cinema) but definitively there are reviews where you can learn something new about the film in question – that´s the reason when I find a film fascinating I look for diverse info and criticisms about it: to learn more about it. This is not the case.

    Honestly, it doesnt show she has 20 years writing about films – no wonder she´s “independent”- and so fore I think (and this is a guess – I pass from giving this more time to go and find facts ) somewhere down the line she had given up on thinking about films in a serious way and, in any case, she is the one who seem to expect films to be of a certain specific way or she´ll get seriously frustrated.

    Best case scenario this review is an opinion (not a critique), more or less informed by expectations and prejudices.

  • If you see “objectivity” in arts criticism, it’s only because your biases align with those of the critic.

  • Yes, yes: you are “reasonable” and “factual” and “empirical” and “scientific.” We get it.

  • Yup, keep clinging to the idea that you are being objective in your approach to film. Keep clinging to the idea that your “perception” of a film is free from any subjectivity.

    Or just accept that I am not the kind of critic you need, and go elsewhere.

  • no wonder she´s “independent”

    Oo, nice burn. You wound me.

    somewhere down the line she had given up on thinking about films in a serious way

    You can fuck off now, and take your judgment with you.

    Best case scenario this review is an opinion (not a critique), more or less informed by expectations and prejudices.

    Crap, you really are delusional, aren’t you? This applies to every single review ever written.

  • Bluejay

    in fact I’m of the school that thinks that text or story is not what defines cinema

    Then you’re at the wrong site, because story is the first priority in MaryAnn’s reviews.

    (and this is a guess – I pass from giving this more time to go and find facts) somewhere down the line she had given up on thinking about films in a serious way

    I love how you can pass judgment on her entire career after reading one review you didn’t care for. And you even admit you can’t be bothered to read more of her work. This is where you let us know we don’t have to take you seriously.

  • Danielm80

    No, no, he’s made the effort to read three of her reviews. He glanced at her reviews of Ghostbusters and Mad Max: Fury Road. He just ignored her in-depth analysis of the themes, characterization, dialogue, special effects, and production design, and her comparisons of the films to other movies in the same series or genre. He apparently felt that if she didn’t discuss the cinematography, her reviews were incomplete and inadequate.

  • LaSargenta

    But she did talk about the cinematography in MM:FR’s review. Didn’t she? Or was that all in the comments?

    (Which reminds me, I want to see that movie again and on a large screen. Does anyone know someone with a home theater and can we get this on DVD yet?)

  • Danielm80

    We had a lengthy discussion about 3D, which was at least nominally connected to the film.

    I wish my apartment were large enough to fit a home theatre.

  • LaSargenta

    There’s a bluray Directors Cut Black & Chrome edition, Hong Kong Version, subtitled in Chinese for sale. Also, there’s DVDs floating around. I must get one. I ought to look into getting a blueray player i can plug into my computer.

  • Danielm80

    I have a region-free Blu-Ray player that isn’t really region-free but none of the other requirements for a party; my apartment is entirely filled with books.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    Even if my interest were solely on storytelling this critic offers little of value.

    I was carefull to call a guess a guess. A guess I’ll keep like that because I’m not interested in reading anything else. I also said I checked other reviews.

    Short term memory and filling the gaps with whatever you want to “understand” – yeah, I’m not the serious one.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    “You can fuck off now”
    – Mary Ann Johanson. Professional film critic.

  • Bluejay

    You came in here full of contempt, called her a hack, dismissed her career as “pseudo criticism,” and basically came into her house and peed all over her rug. She’s talking to you exactly as you deserve talking to. And I second her request.

  • King Chubasqueiro

    There’s a “fuck” in her review. Most publishing editors probably would think the same: she’s a hack. Very thin skinned. I sustained my criticisms with arguments, btw, with no need for “fuck”.

    I’m only been retorting to your comments because you have been careful with the language, btw. So, take no ofense at this being my last comment.

  • Bluejay

    She’s been published elsewhere. This is her personal site. And if “fuck” has you reaching for your smelling salts, you’re gonna have a hard time in 2017.

    Why would I take offense at you going away? Good riddance, and get over yourself.

  • LaSargenta

    You went ad hominem.

    In this context, it is completely appropriate.

  • LaSargenta

    I can perch on books.

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Danielm80

    By the time the Criterion edition comes out, maybe we’ll all be fabulously wealthy, and we’ll be able to afford televisions the size of aircraft carriers.

  • Even if my interest were solely on storytelling this critic offers little of value.

    No one is stopping you from going elsewhere. Are they? If so, you should tell them that this is not cool.

  • Damn straight. I can block you. Would you prefer that?

  • Most publishing editors probably would think the same: she’s a hack.

    Or you just ask the many editors who have paid and continue to pay for my film journalism.

    Keep digging yourself in deeper…

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