Letter #8 (or, The Great Beauty)

Dear Dario,

here I am again, in my small house, cozy but isolated – a small island of comfort from the slings and arrows of the everyday – in the south of Sicily.

They always told me I should have been an actor. It’s because of my face. My mimic skills apparently are outstanding. They kept telling me so during the Master. But that came out naturally to me, and made me realise simply that I’ve been tainted by the life in the small towns – small towns full of mediocre people who tell you to be like them, to be mediocre, to forget your inner weirdness, to follow your dreams. I’ve never believed in myself, and that’s why. In the big city I’ve found already something different, a more open-minded attitude, and people more apt to push you to follow your dreams. But it’s too late now for me; my mind is clouded with the heft of life and lacks that simplicity that’s necessary to walk such path.

I’ve had a great future as an actor – behind me!

I’ve always cultivated my passion for writing, with ups and downs. I did write and kudos to you for remembering that. Good memory really, I sent you my short story 15 years ago! I almost forgot about it.

I wrote it one morning, while I was listening to “Swallowed” by the Bush (I’ll put it on right now, actually). I looked for it, but it’s lost forever. I remember it was set in a reality show – it was the beginning for those shows, with the Big Brother coming up – where the participants would find a secret passage, a sort of hole where they could hide without being bothered by the cameras. So they would go there to have sex unbothered – a hidden dark corner where to hide the sins from the eyes, from the gods.

But sins multiply and get darker.

The participants would find another hole after the abused one, a dark underground alley which would lead to a closed room. Full of dead bodies of children, hung like meat to big iron hooks.

That was a fresh idea back then, but in 15 years they did exploit the realty show theme – look at movies like Contenders – Series 7.

I will be using my skills again, to write a book where I’ll demonstrate that a Degree in Political Sciences is a useless piece of paper but can bring you to unexpected encounters – like Erika De Nardo.

But allow me to change subject and disagree with you. La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) is a masterpiece. I spent the last 2 years defending it. I will defend it one more time.

When I watched it first, I was astounded. I didn’t know if I saw a movie too good or too bad. I know it was definitely a movie with a “too” – I just needed to understand if a good one or a bad one. But my opinion at the time was tainted by the opinions of the friends I’ve watched it with; so I went alone and saw it again. And I loved it.

Sorrentino followed loosely the teachings of the school of the “Novelle Vague”, but I believe his opera should be analysed as a part of his entire production, or corpus.

I always shared with Sorrentino his love for the losers. The kind of people who have a different sparkle, a shining we should say – that have the energy and intelligence to arrive at the top, but that then fall down; because deep down they’re fragile souls. There’s another movie that comes to mind, Birdman by Inarritu; the main character, Michael Keaton’s alter-ego, can definitely resemble the usual Sorrentino’s characters, like Tony Pisapia from “L’Uomo in piu’”, or the burnt-out Sean Penn, washed out photography of an era that was (the 80s; you can see Robert Smith there, how can you not?) in This must be the place. And, going back to square one, Jep Gambardella from La Grande Bellezza.

I respect the losers. I find myself googling old movie stars, enfant prodige of times past: Maculay Culkin (the smarty-pants from Home Alone), Tatum O’Neil, Corey Feldman, Salvatore Cascio, Jerry Supiran…

But Jep Gambardella – can we say that Servillo has been amazing there? Yes, I love Servillo, you have to watch his acting times and times again to appreciate the smallest details. Even in La Grande Bellezza, you think he’s not really into the character, then you realise that is the character that is not that much into himself!

Maybe I project myself onto those characters. I feel an affinity with the losers, because me myself – I feel a little wonder kid which never blossomed.

But again on the movie. During the hours-long piece, Jep talks about a book, a book he wanted to write, the ambition of his life: a book on nothing. And that’s the key to the interpretation; I believe Sorrentino wanted to make a movie about… nothing. But a nothingness that, by absence, acts as a mirror; it’s not the movie that’s empty, it’s the culture, the gestures, the ever-lasting cravings of the human beings, lost dancing on the carpet of life, lost in their desires and fears. The nothingness of morality and humanity. While all around, a superb city or Rome; I don’t agree with the people that say that the movie depicted a decadent Rome. Rome there was amazing; the people were without hope.

And with that one, I leave you, and wait for your words back.

a presto,




2 thoughts on “Letter #8 (or, The Great Beauty)

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