‘Roman Holiday.” “La Dolce Vita.” “Bicycle Thieves.” “To Rome with Love.” The Eternal City, as anyone who has been there or seen the aforementioned movies can tell you, is anything but camera-shy.

While studying abroad in Rome this past spring, I was struck not just by the city’s preposterous cornucopia of monuments old and older, but especially by the camera crews and movie star trailers that could be found everywhere. For better or for worse, there’s no city on earth quite like Rome, and legions of tourists, Instagrammers and moviemakers are determined to prove this to us over and over again.

When a film like Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” turns up, proudly wearing references to classic Italian cinema on its finely tailored sleeves, film critics are usually the first to ask: Why do we need another movie about Rome? Why now? And what more could it possibly say?

Indeed, any artist working in well-trodden territory must at some point consider these questions, and an established filmmaker in particular must consider whether his or her vision can justify millions of dollars in expenses and hundreds of hours of commitment from cast and crew.

Chronicling disparate episodes in the life of a newly 65 writer-journalist as he travels the city and scathingly critiques the Botoxed, burnt-out Roman upper class who spend their days doing nothing and going nowhere, “The Great Beauty” is in many ways an obvious homage to Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece “La Dolce Vita.”

For some, “The Great Beauty” is a bore because it offers nothing that Fellini had not already said before; for others, the film wears out its welcome thanks to a severe case of overindulgence.

Clocking in at a comparatively modest 2 hours and 22 minutes (“La Dolce Vita” runs closer to 3 hours), “The Great Beauty” is an impossibly exhausting odyssey through the streets of Rome and the minds of its inhabitants. Long stretches of the film play out on balconies overlooking the Colosseum and plod on without end as Rome’s idle upper class discusses contemporary art, the Catholic Church and everything in between.

In my own opinion, the film’s fatal flaw is its insistence on casting the widest thematic net possible. When you try to have it all, which, in this case, entails a mentally ill teenager, a stripper with a heart of gold, a cardinal who’s more gastronomically than theologically inclined, a preternaturally talented, adolescent performance artist and a flock of flamingos, you will wind up with nothing short of a mess.

But what a glorious mess it is. What the film lacks in narrative originality and coherence it more than makes up for in visual splendor. Shot on Kodak film for vintage graininess and vibrant nocturnal scenes, “The Great Beauty” boasts dazzling views of Rome at odd hours and in strange places.

As an artist, cinematographer Luca Bigazzi is clearly of one mind with Sorrentino, whose playful edge is matched with Bigazzi’s technical skill in some of the film’s more inventive shots. These innovative scenes include a slow-motion push down the middle of a dance line at the end of an eight-minute opening party sequence as well as a series of flashbacks to the protagonist’s first love, lit intermittently and uncannily by a lighthouse.

Anyone can take pictures of Rome that will wow their friends and family back home, but to truly capture the city’s spirit on film requires talent on an entirely different level.

With its grab bag of virtues and vices, it should come as no surprise that Sorrentino’s sprawling attempt at a new Roman epic was met with mixed reactions.

While “The Great Beauty” picked up awards for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards earlier this year, it made a decidedly smaller splash on its home continent. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2013 but left with no accolades to its name and comparatively little buzz as it proceeded toward its North American debut that fall. Critics, jurors and frothing-at-the mouth film bloggers at Cannes opted to throw their support — and their most laudatory tweets — to movies deemed more relevant to contemporary cinema (“Blue is the Warmest Color,”  “Stranger by the Lake”) and less reliant on earlier precedents. The film’s Oscar victory the following March prompted a brief moment of celebratory enthusiasm in Italy; “The Great Beauty” occupied full-page spreads in many Monday morning newspapers and even aired on national television that same week.

Yet in Rome, the reaction was decidedly cooler — perhaps as a result of the film’s unfavorable depiction of its inhabitants, or perhaps just because Rome, too, has seen enough of itself.

Tim Markatos is a senior in the College. The Cinema Files appears every other Friday in the guide.

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