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film review

Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty.

High above the city streets, so high you feel instantly buzzed, a 65th birthday party is being held for the gilded-society journalist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo).

Rome, with all its decayed magnificence, looms charismatically in the background, but for the revellers it's just another backdrop: something their endless conga line passes by, or maybe a boutique setting for designer photo shoots.

The story of Jep's plush detachment from the real world, and the crisis of soul he'd have if he could be certain he had a soul, Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty is an utterly ravishing portrait of listless luxuriance, a fantasy of decadent wealth and beauty that evokes Fellini's La Dolce Vita by way of Baz Luhrmann.

Indeed, so removed are these people from the real world below them, you wonder if you're not watching a movie about people already dead but too rich to notice.