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5 Things You Should Know About 'The Great Beauty'

It’s been 50 years since Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica and a handful of other Italian directors ushered in the golden age of Italian cinema and made a huge splash on the international film front. Italian movies have had a much quieter impact on the worldwide cinema scene in the last decade or two, but lately there have been some rumblings about a renaissance in Italian cinema. The Great Beauty, which opened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in May and then screened at the Toronto Film Festival in September, is one of the Italian films sparking this talk. Five things you should know about it:

Toni Servillo in 'The Great Beauty,' directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Janus Films

1) It opens in Atlanta on Dec. 6 at the Lefont Sandy Springs Theater.

It’s been a few years since an Italian film was released in Atlanta. Reality, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, was scheduled to open in Atlanta this spring at the Tara but was pulled at the last minute. Likewise, Terraferma and Caesar Must Die, which were Italy’s Oscar submissions in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2011 and 2012, had limited releases elsewhere in the United States this year but never made it to Atlanta.

So it’s fantastic news that The Great Beauty is bucking that trend and opening in Atlanta, even though it’s a bit surprising it won’t be playing at either the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema or the Tara.

2) Its director (Paolo Sorrentino) and star (Toni Servillo) might be Italy’s best director-actor team since Vittorio De Sica and Sophia Loren.

Sorrentino’s last five films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and he’s been nominated for Best Director at the European Film Awards three times. Servillo, who didn’t become a leading man until he was in his 40s, has won five acting awards from the Italian National Syndicate of Journalists and been nominated for three others.

And the two have been at their best when working together, teaming up on four feature films, including The Consequences of Love (2004) and Il Divo (2008), both of which won David di Donatello Awards (Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Picture.

3) It brings to mind Federico Fellini.

With a journalist as the main character and the film’s backdrop of Rome and immersion in Italian high society, The Great Beauty evokes Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita, as well as several other of the famed auteur’s films. Sorrentino has readily acknowledged his love for Fellini’s movies and the director’s influence, but while the connection is there, The Great Beauty is no limp rehash – it has a style and energy all its own.

4) It’s an excellent film.

The Great Beauty, which focuses on an aging writer (Servillo) contemplating the state of his life after 40 years carousing in Rome, is an exhilarating ride. Sorrentino and Servillo deliver some of their best work, artfully mixing the absurd and the poignant and serving up a boldly original tale of later-life reflection that sticks with you. Cinematography, music and costumes are all first-rate. (Read my full review of The Great Beauty.)

5) It’s got a good shot at an Oscar nomination.

Since Roberto Benigni and Life Is Beautiful won big at the Academy Awards 15 years ago, Italy has had a tough time at the Oscars, scoring only one nomination (for 2006’s Don’t Tell).

The Great Beauty has a good chance of bucking that trend, boasting excellent reviews (currently 92% at Rotten Tomatoes), strong audience response (7.7 user rating at IMDB) and promising box office so far ($255K to date in limited release).

The Great Beauty opens in Atlanta on Dec. 6 at the Lefont Sandy Springs. For more on Italian movies, visit VivaItalianMovies.com.