PARTHENOPE: Great Beauty, Turtle Pace [REVIEW]

Parthenope is everything you love and hate about Paolo Sorrentino’s cinema.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

25 May 2024

**Parthenope** is everything you love and hate about Paolo Sorrentino’s cinema. The shots are so over-aestheticized that your eyeballs begin to melt. In the background, choirs and a cello herald a revelation. Along with soothing camera sweeps, sometimes leading to bliss, other times to utter frustration. Ah, and the slow motion, sometimes even freeze-frames, to look closer and focus, to capture the crystal-clear beauty and extraordinariness that we either don’t notice or is simply inaccessible. **Parthenope** is exclusive cinema. Are you a member of the fan club? You’ll feel like you’re in heaven. If not, you’ll either fall asleep or feel like you’ve hit a wall. Sorrentino knows what he wants, he’s consistent and true to his style. For better or worse.

**Parthenope** (Celeste Dalla Porta), like her siren namesake from Greek mythology, was born in the waters of the Bay of Naples. **Parthenope** is the child and patron of Naples, and Sorrentino’s latest film is another tribute and ode to his beloved city. Helping him (or perhaps essential to this) is the titular heroine. Dalla Porta is depicted like a deity. Her every move can cause a heart palpitation, her gaze can pierce any heart, and even the slightest touch has the power of a miracle. Naturally, many suitors pursue **Parthenope**: a close friend dreaming of more, a millionaire tracking her from a helicopter, anyone who passes her on the street. The girl is aware of her charm. She wouldn’t even need to ask to get anything she desires. Yet, her innate goodness prevents her from taking the easy way out, and her prudence and patience lead her, step by step, to discover herself and what she wants from life.

She definitely needs mentors and guides. She finds them in Professor Marotta (Silvio Orlando). He is not only an academic authority for her but also a father figure. He combines discussions on art and anthropology with selfless tenderness and emotional closeness. She learns particular sensitivity and self-discovery skills from the melancholic writer John Cheever (Gary Oldman). Yes, **Parthenope** is a film about wisdom and experience passed down through generations. Paolo Sorrentino tells a story about the hardships of coming of age and gaining a new perspective with time.

Parthenope' Review: An Exquisite Treatise on Cinematic Beauty

Sorrentino juxtaposes the ultimate experience of beauty with piercing grief and sorrow. These extreme emotions are accompanied by chronic contemplation and almost overwhelming decorum. This makes **Parthenope** much closer to cinematic essayism than conventional narrative cinema. If there is any drama, it functions more as an opening for a new chapter of theoretical discourse. Sorrentino’s film will only work and defend itself as an experience in the dark of a cinema hall. **Parthenope** demands complete focus and concentration from its viewers, inner peace, and detachment from external stimuli. Either that, or not at all.

**Parthenope** is filled with spiritual maxims and a contemplative tone. At one point, you’ll hear that “in the most beautiful place on earth, people cannot be happy,” while at another, an aging writer tells the girl he doesn’t want to rob her of her youth. The refined stylistic form justifies and carries the weight of existential reflections. Meditation in dialogues, meditation in the composition of shots. Sorrentino’s film is above all a sensual and aesthetic experience, based on building a nostalgic mood, highlighting the charms of everyday life, and creating wonders. And as Paolo Sorrentino is convinced, they can truly be found around every corner.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

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