The Great Beauty, one of this year's Best Foreign Language Film nominees, is a positively beguiling tale of Rome, artistic pursuit and decadence, and we talked to director and writer Paolo Sorrentino to try to learn more about it.
The movie follows 65-year-old journalist and one-time novelist Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo) as he wanders around Rome, a city with which he has become disillusioned. "The best people in Rome are the tourists," he says. He goes to wild parties complete with garishly made up women, interviews an obnoxious performance artist, begins a relationship with a stripper, and ultimately meets a saintly nun called Sister Maria. Along the way, Sorrentino paints a picture of the city that's both beautiful, mysterious, and garish. His Rome sometimes seems to exist in a dream state. At one point, Jep comes across a giraffe. A magician tells him he is able to make the giraffe disappear. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis called the movie "deliriously alive" and said that with the work Sorrentino has "not only returned to Italy, he has also taken on its past and how it weighs on the present and future."
We talked to Sorrentino via a translator about Rome, his wild party scenes, and that giraffe.
I know you're from Naples. Why did you choose to explore Rome in this film?
It is a city where I've lived for seven years and I still look at it with the eyes of a lover, of a tourist. It is the capital of Italy, and it is the place things happen so it is representative of Italy as such. I looked at it with the eyes of someone who came from a provincial town, and is now in the capital. So a Neapolitan in Rome.