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1935. A group of elderly British women, who the Italians have named the Scorpioni, have chosen Italy, specifically Florence, as a place to live to blend their proper British sensibilities with their love of Italian art and culture. One of those Scorpioni, Mary Walsh, works as the English secretary for Paolo Innocente, who, in part because of his own wife's adamant refusal, largely neglects his illegitimate adolescent son, Luca, despite Paolo's want for Luca to grow up to be a proper young man, much like the English. Luca has lived in an orphanage since his dressmaker mother's death, death a concept that Luca does not yet understand. As such, he often runs away looking for his mother. On a mutual agreement between Paolo and Mary, Mary becomes Luca's guardian, she who will receive help in raising Luca by her fellow Scorpioni and financial help from Paolo as needed. Associated with the Scorpioni is a brash younger nouveau riche Jewish-American woman named Elsa Morgenthal, who, because of... Written by
The tanks the Germans ride in are, in fact, U.S. Army M4 Shermans, not German-built Panzers. See more »
The love affair between the artistically-inclined English community and Florence was soon to be overshadowed by the clouds of war.
But at the moment the sun is still shining on the squares and statues, and the dictator Mussolini is the gentleman who makes the trains run on time.
Excuse me, are you the Consul?
Connie Raynor of the Morning Post. I'm fascinated to know what His Majesty's Consul in Florence makes of it all?
I can't believe your readers would be ...
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Zeffirelli Gets Nostalgic About How He Learned to Love Shakespeare
It's certainly not clear how fictionalized a version of Zeffirelli's autobiography "Tea With Mussolini" is, what with the usual disclaimers at the end. Even presuming this is just a riff off an incident in his life, that he had some contact with memorable English ladies, it's clearly his tribute to where his love of English literature comes from, particularly Shakespeare. He's done several Shakespeare interpretations-- movies, opera and play directing. The film has a lovely scene of him being first introduced to acting out "Romeo & Juliet" with puppets, as well as constant quotes from Shakespeare throughout about war and his situation.
I was surprised how good the movie was - I was in tears several times, especially with visuals that bring up the same comparisons as "The Train" did, with art vs. war, humanity's heights of creativity vs. its lows of prejudice and violence.
These Oscar-winning ladies are absolutely terrific, yes including Cher. One elderly gentleman behind me complained that Maggie Smith basically always plays the same character but I thought her character does change towards the end. The others were certainly not their usual on-screen personas, Judi Dench as a free-spirited artist, Joan Plowright as a quite warm-hearted grandmotherly type, and Lily Tomlin a hoot as a butch archaeologist.
But why choose bland Italian actors for them to play off of? To make the Scorpioni, as they are called, stand out more? The Italians seemed stereotyped to me, Latin lover, ignorant peasants not appreciating their ancient artistic heritage.
What the movie also brought to mind is how few Italian movies have dealt with their fascist past as much as the French have been exploring their consciences of collaboration in film. Sure "Garden of Finzi Continis," "Two Women" and "Life Is Beautiful" show arrests, etc. but I don't get the sense of soul searching as to how did this happen here and could it again? Just because they didn't have Shakespeare and appreciate the treasures of the Uffizi as this film implies? (originally written 5/15/1999)
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