Italy Picks Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” As Its Oscar Contender

Sat, 10/12/2013 - 05:30

“La Grande Bellezza” (The Great Beauty) by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino will be Italy's contender for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it was screened in competition, nominated for the Golden Palm, and hailed by many critics as the latest masterpiece of Italian cinema. Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph's film critic, described Sorrentino's film as "a shimmering coup de cinema", comparing him to Roberto Rossellini's “Rome, Open City” and Federico Fellini's “La Dolce Vita” in its ambition to record a period of Rome's history on film. "Rossellini covered the Nazi occupation of 1944; Fellini the seductive, empty hedonism of the years that followed. Sorrentino's plan is to do the same for the Berlusconi era," he wrote. The Hollywood Reporter critic Deborah Young praised the film, describing it as “an amusing update on Italian society at the end of a cycle” that recalled the “magical atmosphere” of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita".

Two amazing Italian actors star in the movie, Carlo Verdone, in the role of a culture critic immersed in the squalid world of Roman high society, and Tony Servillo playing a cultured and dilettantish Roman writer, Jep Gambardella, always dressed in fine clothes who lives in a world where writers and thinkers mingle with strippers and lap dancers. As the film opens, we see Jep celebrating his sixty-fifth birthday with a hedonistic party in his flashy apartment which overlooks the Coliseum on one side and a convent on the other.

The five nominees for the foreign language category will be announced on January 16, while the 86th Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014.

"I know it's a long and difficult road but we'll do all we can, with screenings, dinners and promotions," Sorrentino told Italy’s news agency ANSA. "I didn't have any expectations or hopes. I'm happy and I'll do everything it takes to carry out this great adventure.”

“La Grande Bellezza” was chosen by a commission at the Italian National Cinema Industry Association's (ANICA) headquarters.

Born in Naples in 1970, Sorrentino has emerged as one of Italy's most respected directors, with five of his seven feature films screening in competition at Cannes. This is the first time one of his films has been selected as Italy's official Oscar candidate. Sorrentino is also known for his film about former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, "Il Divo", which won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2008, "The Consequences of Love" and the English-language "This Must Be the Place" (2011), with Sean Penn.

With 13 winning films, Italy has won more foreign language Oscars than any other country, however it has been a while since its last win as that was in 1999 with Roberto Benigni's "La vita e' bella" (Life Is Beautiful).

The movie, which has already been released in the U.K., will be out in the U.S. in November.

Watch the trailer: