'The Great Beauty' Director Wants Changes in Italy's Film Sector

Paolo Sorrentino
Paolo Sorrentino
 

ROME – Paolo Sorrentino is looking to leverage some of the attention generated by his Academy Award win for best foreign film into advantages for Italy’s film sector as a whole.

Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) won Italy’s first Oscar in 15 years Sunday night. The prestigious award made Sorrentino an instant hero in Italy.

The film itself, which details the descent of a once-promising writer into Rome’s decadent party scene, has drawn mixed reviews in Italy, with some complaining that it casts many aspects of life in the Italian capital in a negative light. But almost everyone -- ranging from cinema industry figures to celebrities to political leaders -- celebrated Sunday’s Oscar win.

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano invited Sorrentino to the Quirinal Palace, and newly installed Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said he called Sorrentino after the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, saying all Italians “feel pride for Sorrentino and The Great Beauty."

Sorrentino now plans to use his newfound fame to discuss the cinema industry with Dario Franceschini, Renzi’s minister of culture. In Italy, the Ministry of Culture has influence over policies that affect the industry, ranging from incentives that draw film shoots to Italy and those backing Italian-made productions to laws that influence exhibitors and financial support for film festivals.

In statements following his Oscar win, Sorrentino said he would like to discuss policies that may force some long-standing cinema locations to close, saying "We have to prevent this."

Sorrentino also said his success has made him feel "a responsibility to represent Italy and Italian cinema." He said he would like to help create incentives for Italy to produce more films that will resonate outside Italy.

Many in Italy’s cinema industry have expressed hope that the win for The Great Beauty will draw new attention to Italy’s film industry and perhaps create a boost at the box office.

But one entity with an opposite view is the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper Famiglia Cristiana said the film shows the “ugliness” of Italy, calling it an “empty” story about the “self-denunciation of [Italy’s] decadence.” The Italian bishops conference echoed the view, saying the film portrayed Italians as “wealthy, bored, vulgar and devoid of any morality.”

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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