Sorrentino. Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino makes beautiful, opulent tales of morality, power, greed and corruption. 2008’s Il Divo isn’t Sorrentino’s debut, but it made him a recognized name on the international festival circuit. His films have stunning photography, symmetry in the frame, and often start with such cinematic oomph and abandon. His strengths for the purposes of this list is he’s essentially made the same film three times (his trilogy of Italian-language films with Toni Servillo- Il Divo, The Great Beauty, and Loro)—they’re high quality and there’s a consistency in his voice of course (more so than fellow talented countryman and contemporary Luca Guadagnino). The elegance of the visuals from Sorrentino match the content and narrative. However, with every successful native-language Italian (and starring Servillo) film, he has tried to make an English-language film (This Must Be the Place, Youth) that hasn’t worked nearly as well.

Best film: The Great Beauty. I don’t think there’s a real contender for this slot here as good as Il Divo is. It is his La Dolce Vita—immaculately photographed and his greatest narrative. 30 of his 50 greatest sequences are in this one film.

It is his La Dolce Vita—immaculately photographed and his greatest narrative. 30 of his 50 greatest sequences are in this one film.


a breathtaking cinematic art-that-belongs-on-a-wall-in-a-museum shot

total archiveable films: 4

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade:  1 (The Great Beauty)

another stunner from The Great Beauty

most overrated: Sorrentino does not have an overrated film. I haven’t been able to catch The Consequences of Love (2004) yet- it is on the consensus TSPDT top 1000 of the 21st century list. The other ones on that list are Il Divo (underrated) and The Great Beauty (also underrated). The Great Beauty is doing well on the all-time list though- at least for a film from 2013—so recent—it sits at #1377 all-time on the consensus list.

most underrated :  Il Divo would be my choice here probably—it is #45 of 2008 and that’s a shame. The Great Beauty sits at #9 for 2013 and although 2013 is stacked- I’d have it in a better spot.

this is from Il Divo— but it’s a shot Sorrentino would use, with variation, again in Youth and in The Great Beauty

gem I want to spotlight :  Il Divo. It has become the Sorrentino prototype. A study of a powerful man, an incredible opening 15-20 minutes, stunning to look at.


some subtle lighting touches here- but mostly this shot from Il Divo is praise-worthy for the blocking and arrangement of characters making of the frame composition

stylistic innovations/traits:                             

  • Meditations on greed, sin and hypocrisy—the exquisiteness of the visuals match the content and narrative
  • Masterful lighting – Sorrentino is one of the best of the 21st century here

from Youth– a gorgeous setting of the frame— Sorrentino’s talent for expressive lighting is among the greatest of the 21st century

this one is from Loro

cinematic illumination bliss- from Youth here

  • Hypnotic openings- these are largely stories of the rise and fall of powerful men—and the rise is shot with energetic tracking shots (often with drug-use, drinking, women, money) and the fall slows down, contemplative musings (shot with clean and symmetrical compositions)
  • the tableau shot– used again and again- great compositions

symmetry in a tracking shot from The Great Beauty

Sorrentino moves quickly, has an active camera, so it’s easy to miss detail like the composition here and the perfect lighting above the characters heads- this from The Great Beauty

  • There’s a lot of Fellini here- the carnival and frivolity of life- emptiness of lust, greed, money—particularly La Dolce Vita – morality and Catholicism
  • Certainly a painter’s natural eye for composition


top 10

  1. The Great Beauty
  2. Il Divo
  3. Loro
  4. Youth


By year and grades

2008- Il Divo R
2013- The Great Beauty MS
2015- Youth R
2018- Loro R


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives