La Dolce Vita plays out with Italian films at Cannes

Tue May 21, 2013 1:22pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

CANNES (Reuters) - Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," a nostalgic, melancholic ode to the eternal city Rome, is one of several films that touch on the unraveling of contemporary Italy in official selection at the Cannes film festival this year.

Also competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or award to be handed out on May 26 is "Un Chateau en Italie" ("A Castle in Italy") by Franco-Italian director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi about the demise of an aristocratic family.

Italian actress Valeria Golino makes her directorial debut with "Miele" ("Honey") about a woman who helps terminal patients end their lives. The movie is competing in the "Un Certain Regard" category for emerging filmmakers.

Bathed in the beautiful Roman light of yellows and golds, "La Grande Bellezza" ("The Great Beauty") is a lush, sweeping film that both critiques the emptiness of life and revels in it.

We first meet protagonist Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo, at a late-night bash that makes the famed "bunga bunga" parties of Silvio Berlusconi look tame.

Jep is living the high life on the laurels of a famous novel he wrote 40 years ago, and now at 65 is stuck in a rut.

As he reflects on the possibility of writing again, he questions his hedonistic life and his rich, vapid friends, whom he entertains at raucous parties at his apartment overlooking Rome's Colosseum.

"The film tries to portray a poverty that is not material," Sorrentino told reporters on Tuesday. "At the same time, we're not passing a negative judgment but showing what it is, and it symbolizes our country."   Continued...

Director Paolo Sorrentino attends a news conference for the film "La grande bellezza" (The Great Beauty) during the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau