- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - It took an ode to five-time Oscar winner Federico Fellini to break Italy’s 14-yearlong drought in the foreign language category.

“The Great Beauty,” which many critics have compared to Fellini’s 1960 film “La Dolce Vita,” broke the dry spell.

Asked backstage if the pressure of his countrymen had gotten to him, director Paolo Sorrentino said it had.

“I felt a sense of responsibility in the last days from my country because too many people were talking about this award,” he said. “It was a little bit hard to live. But now I am happy. I am very happy.”

The movie, heavily favored since winning awards from the Golden Globes and British Academy, follows writer Jep Gambardella, who at age 65 begins to re-examine the luxuriant life he’s led in Rome, years after writing the one book that elevated him into high society.

While at the same dividing critics for its focus on the malaise of some of Rome’s inhabitants, the film has been hailed for bringing out the city’s sumptuous beauty.

Sorrentino said backstage that the music in the movie brought out the city’s inherent contradictions.

“The music in the film is a very simple mix between sacred music and profane music because in my mind, Rome is a city that has this big characteristic,” he said. “It’s the center of the Vatican, the center of the Catholic world. At the same time, the profane world works under the Vatican.”

In a tribute that may have confused his countrymen, Sorrentino thanked several luminaries, from Fellini and Italian-American director Martin Scorsese to Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer star.

Sorrentino explained backstage that he was born in Napoli, Italy, where Maradona played when the director was still a boy. “For me, he was very important,” he said.

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