(ANSA) - Rome, January 13 - Enthused reactions on Monday met the news that Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) won the best foreign film award at the Golden Globes, raising hopes for an Oscar nod days before nominees are announced in Hollywood. Compared by some to the work of cinematic icon Federico Fellini, the movie awarded late Sunday is about a culture critic immersed in the squalid world of Roman high society.
"Italian cinema is once more in the spotlight," declared Italian Culture Minister Massimo Bray, who congratulated Sorrentino and the film's cast.
"I had the honour of watching and appreciating this gorgeous film at its presentation at Cannes, along with the whole cast," Bray wrote in an open letter. "I am convinced that it is necessary to bet on our cultural industry".
Roman Mayor Ignazio Marino added his voice to the chorus of praise, saying, "To Paolo Sorrentino I want to offer my warmest congratulations, on my part and on behalf of this city which has inspired him so much". "The triumph of The Great Beauty at the Golden Globes is a source of deep pride for our country and in particular Rome, portrayed in all its extraordinary charm, despite its contradictions". "So thanks to Paolo Sorrentino. Rome is at his side and rooting for him, also in view of the next major challenges".
The prize awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a huge boost for the film ahead of the Oscars in March.
The Great Beauty has made the shortlist of nine in the foreign film category. The list be whittled down to five when the Academy Awards nominees are announced Thursday. The 86th Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Sorrentino has told ANSA he would do "everything" to boost the film's chances, including hosting special screenings, dinners, and other promotions. "Thank you Italy," said Sorrentino after collecting his Golden Globe. "It's a truly strange country, but a beautiful one". It is the first time an Italian picture has won at the Golden Globes since Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso in 1989. Italy has not won an Academy Award since Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful 15 years ago.
The Great Beauty was nominated for the Golden Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival but left empty-handed. Sorrentino won the jury prize there in 2008 with Il Divo, a highly acclaimed portrait of controversial Italian statesman Giulio Andreotti.
In 2011 the Neapolitan director's This Must Be The Place, with Sean Penn, snagged a lesser jury award.
In The Great Beauty, Rome's immortal yet increasingly tawdry glamour is seen through the eyes of an ageing writer played by acclaimed Italian actor Toni Servillo, a veteran of five Sorrentino films including Il Divo, where he played the 'Divine' Giulio.
"It is obviously a great joy. None of us imagined winning a Golden Globe," Servillo told Italy's Sky TG24 on Monday.
Servillo said he exchanged messages with Sorrentino early Monday and praised the director for his talent, saying the prize demonstrated critics' and journalists' appreciation of "the novelty" of Sorrentino's "cinematic language". It is one of the most decorated films in Italy so far this year, having taken home five awards from Italy's Nastri d'Argento (Silver Ribbon) honors and the best cinematography prize at the Globi d'Oro, Italy's Golden Globes.
The Hollywood Reporter called the film "an amusing update on Italian society at the end of a cycle" that recalled the "magical atmosphere" of Fellini's 'Roma' and 'La Dolce Vita'.