Sorrentino serves up a cinema banquet at Cannes
From second left, actress Sabrina Ferilli, director Paolo Sorrentino and actor Toni Servillo arrive for the screening of The Great Beauty at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
CANNES, France (AP) — Paolo Sorrentino has a thing about food — appropriately enough, for the director of a sumptuous feast of a film, "The Great Beauty."
The Italian auteur's Cannes Film Festival entry is a journey through Rome in the company of observant but aimless writer Jep Gambardella (actor Toni Servillo). Sorrentino's camera takes viewers through the sacred, profane and teeming streets — to medieval churches and grand palazzi, modernist homes and debauched poolside parties. All are wearily watched by Jep, who is turning 65 and trying to recapture his passion for life.
Along the way the film provides sharp portraits of characters who have lost their way amid the endless distractions of urban living — including a Roman Catholic Cardinal too busy dispensing his favorite recipes to offer spiritual counsel. It's one of many signs in the film of a society that has come unmoored from its bearings.
From left, actors Anna Della Rosa, Sabrina Ferilli, director Paolo Sorrentino and actor Toni Servillo arrive for the screening of The Great Beauty at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
"When I think about it, I find it's quite extravagant the way everyone talks about food," the director said during an interview in Cannes. "I think this obsession with food has reached people who should deal with the Holy Spirit.
"I fall into the trap myself," he admitted. "One of my favorite shows is 'Masterchef.'"
"The Great Beauty" — the title can refer to the Eternal City, or to life itself — has been well received at Cannes, where Servillo is being mentioned as a candidate for the best-actor prize in Sunday's awards.
Some viewers, though, found it overwhelming: too rich in strange and beautiful imagery — a flock of flamingoes and a giraffe make memorable appearances — and too suffused with talk and ideas.
Sorrentino says that's partly the point — life and Rome are both overwhelming. One early scene shows a tourist photographing a sublime view of Rome, and keeling over dead.