Collyrium – Paolo Sorrentino’s aesthetic stories

This week we are going to discover Paolo Sorrentino’s cinema in view of the recent The Young Pope new season release, which this time will be called The New Pope.

avatar
25 March 2019

Sorrentino, surely one of the leading contemporary directors has become Italian’s cinema flag bearer at Hollywood, where he was repeatedly nominated for a number of golden statuettes which, with The Great Beauty, managed to bring it home.

Why has Sorrentino’s cinema become so iconic and globally appreciated? To answer this question we need to proceed orderly by splitting Sorrentino’s cinema into two different periods.

The first one, formally discreet but definitely more substantial, includes One Man Up, The Consequences of Love, The Family Friend and finally Il Divo.

The second one, where direction and writing are dominated and accompanied by almost pictorial photography which itself becomes the main narrative. This period also coincides with critics success, years in which, entering the international commentators’ crosshairs, it has succeeded in winning decidedly greater productive investments than previously. This Is The Place, The Great Beauty, Youth and finally Loro.

Though initially certainly not an easy concept to understand, it is enough to look at one of Sorrentino’s latest works to understand how images, if used carefully, are worth thousands of words.

But let’s proceed step by step.

Paolo Sorrentino was born in Naples in 1970 had his early years was deeply disturbed by the sudden death of his parents. Orphaned, the not yet director, devoted himself to economic studies and, once graduated, began his movie career initially producing short films. In 1994 he co-directs Un paradiso with Stefano Russo, four years later he teamed-up for the first time with Umberto Contarello giving birth L’amore on ha confini.

Forgetting for a moment his undeniable talent, Sorrentino’s true fortune is in fact linked to the series of high level collaborations, who over the years’ test have managed to form first-class teams in which we often see the just mentioned Contarello on scripts, the impeccable Luca Bigazzi to the direction of photography and the participation of Toni Servillo, who often willingly lends his face to the various movie protagonists. All these elements, supported by a Hollywood character mega-production (especially notable in his latest works), lay the foundations to what we know as the amazing “cinema Sorrentiniano”.

But that is not all. His works are sprinkled with the sometimes highly criticized quotations to Fellini’s masterful films, which fantastic elements on the edge of the grotesque reality managed to penetrate Sorrentino’s DNA, strongly characterizing it.

To watch his first feature film we have to wait until 2001, the year during which One Man Up takes shape, a strongly Neapolitan movie from which the character of Toni Pagoda later inspired two incredibly beautiful novels written by the director himself.

Sorrentino’s subsequent filmography is qualified by the textbook, which often, old-time fans, indicate as the director’s only noteworthy works. Among these, we remember The consequences of love, but above all il divo (winner of the jury prize at Cannes), where for the first time we see the director dealing with the issue of political power. Authority is, in fact, a very dear theme to the filmmaker. Whether it is political (the Divo and Loro), economic (the great beauty) or religious (The Young Pope and The New Pope).

The second phase of his cinema began to take shape in 2011 with the arrival in the theaters of This Must Be The Place, an Italian, French and Irish production boasting an almost entirely international cast, where we identify Sean Penn in the leading role, flanked by the recent Oscar winner Frances McDormand. With this work, where the Talking Heads’ David Byrne soundtrack also stands out, Sorrentino inaugurates his second directorial phase.

Although This Must Be the Place won several awards and nominations, it is his next work which consecrated him as a great contemporary author. I’m talking about The Great Beauty, a film dedicated with love but also a pinch of hatred to our beloved capital, a place where, according to the director himself, the sublime and pathetic constantly coexist and intertwine. And this is precisely what The Great Beauty tells. Despite Toni Servillo’s magnetic main role, the real protagonist is Rome, with all its majestic beauty as well as its gross human degradation transposed through opulent parties, plastic surgery, and cocaine.

With this extremely Fellinian work, the director wins an Oscar for the best foreign film, a result he will not be able to obtain a second time. At least until now. Sorrentino’s successful efforts of will, however, lead him to critics and prize accomplishments. In fact, after the clamor aroused by this last ode to the eternal city, Youth is projected on the big screen, winning 3 European Awards, and the very recent Loro which unconventionally analyses the now globally pop character of Silvio Berlusconi.

But the Neapolitan’s filmmaker efforts do not end here. In 2016, in fact, his first work for small screens comes out: The Young Pope, an HBO production that recounts the rise to power of a young and controversial Pope interpreted by none other than Jude Law.

After this first serial experiment success, the Neapolitan director decided to devote himself to a sequel that will soon see its release: The New Pope.

The waiting is about to end and we are looking forward to the broadcast of Sorrentino’slast television gem.

Newsletter

Keep up to date!
Receive the latest news about art, music, design, creativity and street culture.
Share