Tag Archives: Paolo Sorrentino

Spit It Out!

The Hand of God

by George Wolf

“Do you have a story to tell? Do you have something to say? Then spit it out!”

That’s solid advice from a veteran director to an aspiring filmmaker named Fabietto (Filippo Scotti, completely charming). But in The Hand of God, it sounds more like writer/director Paolo Sorrentino reaching out to his teenaged self.

Fabi’s life in 1980s Naples is filled with a steady array of colorful family members, neighbors, friends and passersby. They laugh, they argue, pull pranks on each other and cheer fanatically for Diego Maradona in the 1986 “Hand of God” World Cup. Fabi soaks it all in happily, his headphones constantly draped around his neck while his wandering teen eyes fall often on his voluptuous Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri).

Though there’s much drama in and around the household (including a sister who never leaves the bathroom), there’s never a shortage of love or laughter, which makes the tragedy that comes in the film’s second act land that much harder.

This is clearly a very personal project for Sorrentino (Il Divo, The Great Beauty). And it often feels like a series of rather testosterone-heavy vignettes pulled from his memory, strung together with the majesty of architecture and landscapes that he continues to showcase so beautifully.

Though the overall tapestry flirts with self-indulgence before the young Fabi finds his calling, Sorrentino has crafted a warm and often wonderful homage to the people, places, and twists of fate that make us what we are.

Not So Young and Restless


by Hope Madden

Like writer/director Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 Oscar winner The Great Beauty, his latest effort, Youth, offers a visually sumptuous rumination on aging and regret.

Michael Caine leads a marvelous cast as Fred Ballinger, a retired composer who’s done with life. He’s wasting time at a luxurious Swiss hotel, sharing a room with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and hanging out with his longtime pal Mick (Harvey Keitel).

Keitel and Caine shine. A fragile, passionate Keitel delivers his strongest performance in decades as the over-the-hill filmmaker grasping for one last “testament.” Meanwhile, the more restrained Caine is no less heartbreaking. Together they tease out a lived-in friendship that’s a bittersweet joy to watch.

Weisz, equal parts vulnerability and fire, joins a delightfully sly Paul Dano in support of the geriatric leads, all of them part of an unusual and high-brow population at this resort.

A parade of images, both grotesque and gorgeous – and the absurdity of that mixture – is the essence of the film. Sorrentino’s channeling a couple of compatriots with this one. You see the influence of Fellini in many ways, as Sorrentino gives life to poet Pavese’s quote, “The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.”

He’s helped immeasurably by cinematographer Luca Bigazzi, whose lens finds glamour and decay in equal measure, giving the film a dreamy cinematic quality. David Lang’s evocative score emphasizes the hypnotic quality of the visuals. It’s a visual and aural feast, though the concept that aging men see lost vitality encapsulated solely in the image of beautiful young women is wearisome.

This is a film marked, more than anything, by one concentrated feeling: longing. Sorrentino captures this beautifully, and his cast is more than capable of breathing life into characters saddled with a yearning for what is lost.

Segues into elegantly whimsical moments of fantasy are particularly enjoyable, but Sorrentino’s greatest triumph here is the sucker punch awaiting audience and characters alike with the introduction of Jane Fonda’s character.

A salty, aging diva, Fonda offers a swift kick to all this languid, self-congratulatory cinematic nonsense. She’s a blistering triumph, garish and glorious.

There are slow spots and questionable indulgences, but Youth, with the help of a stellar veteran cast, showcases something rarely offered in modern film – the power of age.



Beautiful Indeed


by George Wolf


Ambitious in scope and bursting with visual wonder in nearly every frame, the Oscar-nominated The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) is an Italian film that not only embraces Fellini comparisons, but revels in updating the “Fellini-esque” moniker with thoroughly modern sentiments.

Director/co-writer Paolo Sorrentino takes us into the upper crust of Rome society through the eyes of Jep Gambardella (the marvelous Toni Servillo), a writer, playboy and all-around rascal who for years has enjoyed living his longtime dream of being the one guest with enough social clout “to make the party a failure.”

Shortly after his 65th birthday bash, though, Jep is shaken by news regarding a friend from his past, and he begins to look beyond the superficial pleasures, searching for the simple, exquisite beauty he never stopped to appreciate.

Sorrentino displays a masterful ability to combine wry satire, silly comedy, and keen social commentary. Working with a loose, often surrealistic narrative and an unhurried pace, Sorrentino employs  veteran cinematographer Luca Bigazzi to unveil countless scenes of beauty, brilliantly driving home the point that Jep merely has to open his eyes to find what he is seeking.

Awash in wealth and decadence but grounded in the simple joys of life, The Great Beauty is an endlessly fascinating ride that never fails to live up to the grandness of its title.