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.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- The Great Beauty
- Il Divo
By year and grades
|2008- Il Divo||R|
|2013- The Great Beauty||MS|
*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
Do you (or gone in the past) to film festivals?
@Cinephile– nope- I’d love to though. Obviously not this year but I always look forward to Cannes in May and the fall (late august early September) run of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto is one of my favorite times of the year– tracking as all these films debut.
@Drake– Do you think that if you’d go to festivals, that will affect your year end list choices? Do you think that maybe the list would be more foreign/international cinema driven since in festivals there is more of that kind of cinema?
@Cinephile— hmm. I don’t think so. It may change my list in February/March when I try to do it and recap the last year– but I think I get to all of the necessary (or nearly) films eventually. Like in 2017– I did the page for 2017 in March of 2018 and didn’t see Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” until April. But when I update my decade list or update 2017 next it’ll be there.
@Cinephile– I don’t know- maybe you’re right- it is taking me much longer to come around on the likes of Roy Andersson and László Nemes
Hello, I’m Brazilian, I really like your site. I wanted to ask you if you are a film teacher and if you intend to become a Director (or if you have already written a script). I wanted to ask you: what do you think about Brazilian cinema ? I think it’s one of the worst in the world, there are few great Brazilian films. However, Portuguese cinema is a lot, as director Pedro Costa (has seen something about him), what do you think of Portuguese cinema? I also wanted to ask you ( sorry for so many questions) what do you think about Tsai Ming-Liang, I just love him, his films are great. Sorry if the spelling and punctuation are wrong, I’m using Google translator
@Lucas Henriques– thanks for the comment here and for visiting the site. I must admit I have some work to do on Pedro Costa and Tsai Ming-Liang. As for Brazilian cinema– I adore City of God– but am not sure how many others are in the archives here. Could be a blind spot for me as well.
Brazilian cinema, like almost all countries, has some good films: City Of God (after Fernando Meirelles did not make any relevant Brazilian films), some by Glauber Rocha, Central do Brasil and currently we have Kléber Mendonça Filho, that is, internationally relevant Brazilian directors can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But compare with Italian, Russian, French, American, British, Polish (Zanussi, Kiewloski) Iranian (Asghar Farhadi, Kiarostami, Pajar Fahni), Argentine (Argentine (Lucrecia Martel, Lisonso Afonso)). Brazilian cinema may have had some good films in the past (yes, few), but today there are even fewer
@Lucas Brazilian cinema has City of God and Central station amongst others.
No country that produces movies of that quality can be considered among ” the worst in the world”.
On the subject of Brazilian cinema, I’d also recommend last year’s Invisible Life, directed by Karim Ainouz.
Oh, and there’s also Hector Babenco’s Pixote, which is on the Criterion Channel. Macunaima is also pretty good.
Macunaima is pretty good, as well.*
What did you make of his work on The Young Pope and The New Pope, starring Jude Law?
@Jeff No. 2- I’m not a huge admirer. I thought there were some high points– but by and large too few and far between trapped inside a normal television drama (lots of talking). What did you think? I’ll check it out again when I do a Sorrentino study
Hey Drake, what do you think about Nanni Moretti? I think he’s the best italian auteur of the past 40 years and I can’t find him in your list.
@benedetto – I’ve got work to do on Moretti yet. I think I’ve seen The Son’s Room but honestly can’t remember. If I did it was prior to 2016 and I didn’t archive it so I don’t have notes on it. Sorry. You’d take Moretti over Sorrentino and Guadagnino?
Well Moretti is making movies since 1976 and I think he made the best italian movies in the 80’s with “Bianca” and “La Messa è finita”. Bianca I think it’s a good start to approach the old Moretti. I say that he is the best because he is the most italian of them all. He speaks about everything in his “little” movies; from the church to the politics, the youth and the inevitable fight withe the oldest generations. He definitely doesn’t have the stunning Sorrentino’s frames but it’s a very different kind of cinema. Sorry for my english tho.
@benedetto- this is great- thank you for the information here on Moretti and the suggestion on a place to start
Didn’t Fellini do all of those things in Amarcord alone, not to even mention any of his other films?
Yeah definitely Zane. Fellini is one of the greatests, not even comparable with Moretti. But they’re talking about two different countries. Fellini in Amarcord paints the Italy of his childhood aka the 20’s and 30’s,, Moretti is the best of his generation imho ( I think is the best italian director that came out after the 60’s.
Drake, I’m glad I could give you a suggestion, never thought I could tell u something u didn’t knew.
Caught my first Sorrentino, The Hand of God in theatres today. The lighting was stunning all around and with an abundance of great acting from many involved. I feel confident it’s worthy of the top 10 of 2021.
Wow! Very glad to hear promising things for this one. I am very excited for it but I think I will have to catch it when it comes to Netflix in December. I just adore The Great Beauty and have been meaning to seek out more of his work.
@Drake – Sorry if I’m being irritating with all these questions I ask, I know it’s your site and you decide what to watch, what to post and what to do etc.
But, would you be able to see Loro for a second time before updating the 2019 page? And have you seen The Hand of God yet? I’m viewing it on the next monday or tuesday.
@RK- Loro will be on the 2018 page. I still have some time before updating that page but I do not have Loro on my short list to see again unfortunately. I should be able to get to The Hand of God prior to completing the 2021 page though.