Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
In Italian with English subtitles
This exquisitely-shot and lavishly-rendered film opens up with a quote from Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s book Journey to the End of the Night: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” This quote, then sets the tone for the rest of the film as Jep Gambardella (Servillo) an aging socialite and writer, aimlessly wanders through the streets of Rome, looking for…well, something. When he first came to Rome, while in his twenties, Jep wrote a famous and well-received novel, only to become dissolute and turn to the party life of the high life circuit (at one point in the film he confesses that he didn’t just want to become part of the high life, but the King of the high life; not so much attending parties, but determining if they succeed or fail).
Needless to say, even in his “retirement” he settled into a comfortable life of writing cultural columns and throwing (and attending) parties in Rome. Now that he has reached the ripe old age of 65 (and shortly after his 65th birthday party) that is held at his plush apartment which is overlooking the Coliseum, he wanders through the ruins and city streets, encountering the various characters, reflecting on his life, his first love, and sense of profound unfulfillment.
Over the years in the city, Jep has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome, becoming something of permanent fixture in the city’s literary and social circles since his early success. However, when he receives notification of the passing of his first, profound love, he finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on both himself and his contemporaries, as well as looking over the past the extravagance of his lifestyle. Now he is simply haunting nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
A deeply melancholy film that not only displays all the fading glory of Rome, but also exposes the city’s darker underbelly even as it displays the bankrupt lifestyle of its inhabitants. In Italian with English Subtitles, the film is something of a epic journey of a man who has finally been forced to come to grips with his own mortality.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.