What The Great Beauty got wrong (and Neuromancer got right)

I recently returned from Rome, and my friends there were talking of Paolo Sorrentino’s Le Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty), which received some attention by Italians before it won the Foreign Language Oscar and much attention after.  It’s a beautiful film, and poignant, but it is also fatally nostalgic and anachronistic.

large_70TGomRq1JQNWvnnq5DNfUkzyexIts theme is the paralysis of wealthy Italians, a kind of Chekovian Fellini-ism.  What makes this so wrong of our time is that we live when the wealthy are as much the opposite of paralyzed as one can describe.  The wealthy are furiously active, growing their power at exponential rates. It is the rest of us that are paralyzed.

The much truer work for our time is Neuromancer.  I know many were impatient with cyberpunk, mostly because of its tough guy noir.  But even though it is 30 years old, Gibson’s novel captured some of the social dimensions of the then future very well: corporations grown to immense power, vast mercenary armies (like Blackwater) killing with impunity, governments intentionally weakened until most people live in an arena of vicious social darwinism, and a ruling class of highly isolated wealthy elites bereft of social conscience or social interest.

Neuromancer_(Book) That is our time, that is our world, and I’m glad that an SF author saw it clearly, and sorry that our more popular forms of art gaze backward.

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