I’ll begin by saying that I don’t expect many, if any at all, to read these few words, an act that offers me the liberty of jumping over the more tedious parts of a general review, and allows me the opportunity to simply describe why I have grown to venerate this movie over the short period of the passing week. Indeed, if I were to somehow forget over the next months why this movie has been so important to me, let these small paragraphs serve as both a helpful reminder and an exercise in writing, since I am a lazy sloth who’s unashamed to admit it.
The movie starts off with a quote that might just be half as long as what I’m intending to write, but I’ll go ahead and quote it anyway, since it illustrates the movie’s main ideas quite nicely and it remains a pleasure to read time and time again: “Travel is useful, it exercises the imagination. All the rest is disappointment and fatigue. Our journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength. It goes from life to death. People, animals, cities, things, all are imagined. It’s a novel, just a fictitious narrative. Littré says so, and he’s never wrong. And besides, in the first place, anyone can do as much. You just have to close your eyes. It’s on the other side of life.” – Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the end of the night.
The film feels like an ode to Fellini‘s work, especially La dolce vita, with the great distinction that Jep (the film’s protagonist, played by Toni Servillo) is much older and way, way more charismatic than Mastroianni‘s character. Having just turned 65, Jep starts pondering upon his life so far, with tiny bits of nostalgia on the side, a seasoning with subtle taste, that doesn’t get in the way of the main course’s aroma. His journey throughout the film is meant to show us the illusory feeling that life tends to have, a sightshow in which everything feels quite close and at the same time just out of reach, a ride meant to be enjoyed and not necessarily analysed. A beautiful picture hidden beneath the sounds and the lights and (stepping in Jep’s shoes for a moment) the blah, blah, blah.
I never thought I’d grow to care for a movie as much as I’d care for some of my favorite books, which is something that I choose to see as a lesson in the futility of expectancy. The movie looks gorgeous and has an amazing soundtrack, that goes so well with the scenes in which they appear, managing to deepen the atmosphere of the scene, and not steal the show. It is both fun and thought provoking, it has style and substance in an equal manner, with a great cast, out of which Toni Servillo’s performance grabbed my attention all the way, hands-down. I haven’t had as much fun watching an actor play since Daniel Day Lewis‘ Daniel Plainview in ‘There will be blood‘, I think.
(The review is incomplete, it requires garnishing.)
I’ll finish off by saying that ‘La Grande Bellezza‘ (2013) holds just as much value to me as ‘Madame Bovary‘ or ‘As I lay dying‘, books and films that I’ll return to time and time again, as time passes by.