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The Great Beauty 

A colorful Fellini-esque exploration of life among Roman intellectuals

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When occasional journalist and Rome society fixture Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) turns 65, he grows more contemplative of his life: Has it all been a whirl of parties, bullshit and frivolous pursuits? Is there any meaning, or any future? Director Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo) examines this query in his loosely plotted but visually dazzling film. The luxurious homes, the crumbling Roman ruins, the gorgeous ennui of the decadent elite, the bright colors, sly wit and surreal moments will remind viewers of similar Fellini films. (So too will the nearly two-and-a-half-hour length.)

Like any satire of contemporary Italy, some foreknowledge is helpful, particularly of Catholicism and politics. (Watch the idle rich debate who was more socialist once.) You might find the existential troubles of Gambardella not quite universal — must all men's emptiness trace back to that one unattainable woman in their adolesence? But if you have the patience for this sort of arty, stylized Euro dramedy, this is a fine and mostly entertaining example. In Italian, with subtitles.

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