Matthew Lickona 4:30 p.m., May 20
The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)
Celebrated journalist Jep Gambardella (played with mournful comic pall by Tony Servillo) wrote a great novel — 40 years ago. Since then, he's been living a life of social ascendance and moral decline, and now, in the wake of his 65th birthday blowout, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by dead things. As one of the film's more sympathetic sycophants points out, nostalgia is "the only distraction left for those who have no faith in the future." Comic relief arrives in the form of a mummified 104-year-old mother superior whose sole tip for longevity is “eat your roots,” something these cannibalistic roysterers have been doing for decades. Director Paolo Sorrentino puts enough energy into his elastic camerawork and boomerang editing patterns to power three features, and while his nostalgic arrow to the past never finds its bull's eye, The Great Beauty remains a great beauty: an imposing tribute paid to a city, an age, a mindset, and a certain tendency in Italian cinema. It's also the greatest echo of Fellini since Mean Streets. 2013.