Art History Courses
Movies of Italian Renaissance and
and Tyrone Power in Prince of Foxes, 1949.
Of Italian Renaissance Interest
- The Prince of Foxes. 1949.
Orson Welles plays Cesare Borgia, Tyrone Power is a painter tricked into serving him. (They show his paintings; rather
like Tuscan 15th century so you see there is a reason to take art history courses) Set in and around Siena, with some
amazing locations. Recently made available on DVD.
Othello 1952. Directed by and starring Orson Welles. Filmed on location all over Morroco
and Italy; contains striking images of Venice.
- The Agony and the Ecstasy
1965. Overblown, too long--but often funny (intentionally and less so) costume epic about Michelangelo, Pope Julius
II and the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A large part of their dialogue actually comes from historical
sources--even the fights. With Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison.
- Romeo and
Juliet 1968. Filmed with real teenagers in the title roles, and shot
in small towns such as Gubbio, Pienza, and Tuscania--today's Verona is far
too built up and populous. Highly praised, although much of the text was cut
in recognition of the limited speaking skills of the young leads.
Don Giovanni Joseph Losey's 1979 version of Mozart's opera is set in the
Veneto and Venice, with extraordinary use of Palladian villas as his stage
sets. Through the magic of cinema the buildings and their locations have
been manipulated, so it really becomes a contest of KNOW YOUR PALLADIAN
VILLAS. For example, the Villa Rotonda, where Don Giovanni lives, is not
situated in the middle of a lake or river or whatever that body of water
is supposed to be. However, the movie is enormous fun and Raimondi, who
supposedly has sung the role of DG over 800 times is excellent as the evil
Don who in the end gets just what he deserves (See photo on link above).
- Room with a View 1986. It's Florence
and, in the second half, the English countryside. But it's Italy mythologized again and it's by
James Ivory. A beautifully done exact transcription into film of the
book by E.M. Forster. The Florence city scenes were shot for the most part in
and around the Piazza Signoria in the oldest parts of the city. The
pensione where the characters stay is/was a real hotel; it was blown up in
the May 1993 Uffizi bombing.
- Shakespeare in Love Why the play is not
Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress,
1998. [OK--it's not set in Italy--BUT Shakespeare was a famous fan of Italia!]
Beauty 16th-century Venice: gondola rides, palaces, lots of semi-sheer linen.
Movies of Italian Baroque
Perhaps the best of the portraits of Rome and Italy as the Paradise of
Foreigners (see also below, The Fifties Version. Cheerfully
unreal: AH is a visiting Princess, GP a slimy newspaper reporter who turns out to have a
conscience after all. The locations are wonderful: AH lives in a palatial building that
is the Palazzo Barberini on the exterior and (mostly) the Palazzo Colonna on the
interior. The Palazzo
Barberini was built in part by Gianlorenzo Bernini
and Francesco Borromini and is visitable today as the National Gallery of
Art. The Palazzo Colonna is most famous as a showplace of the family's
collection of paintings and Venetian glass chandeliers and
mirrors. Unseen in the movie is the famous staircase that still contains
the cannonball that landed there during the 1848 Siege of Rome. It's open
only on Saturday mornings, but is well worth a visit. The rest of the
locations in the movie are either identified for you or are obvious.
Also, many of the exterior scenes were shot with a hand-held camera
following AH and GP through the city. Most notable is the sequence near
the beginning showing AH wandering through the outdoor market and the
- Lurid movie of 1997 sort of about Artemisia Gentileschi, a Roman
painter whose style shows influence both from her successful father and
Caravaggio. The link above is to the sort of English translation of the
original German promotional site.
The movie provoked a lot of controversy when it was first released, for
the director/writer played fast and loose with the historical facts about
AG's life. There's a Web site by someone you know on Artemisia Gentileschi in the Movies
that contains the response by Mary Garrard and Gloria Steinem, along with
links to sites about the movie and about AG.
- Caravaggio 1986. The
life of the painter reimagined by Derek Jarman. Doesn't seem to be
available for purchase and it's not going to be shown on Turner Classics.
- Casanova 2005. Who cares, it's
set in Venice...
Movies Set in Italy
The Fifties Verson: Popular movies made in the Fifties set in
Italy tended to show lots of major monuments, which is often the only
element that makes them bearable today. Even good movies like The
Barefoot Contessa and Summertime (see below) contain some
ethnic stereotyping that could most charitably be called dated. Still,
the photography is often beautiful and you get to see what Italy looked
like before smog and mass tourism. Try:
Three Coins in the Fountain, 1954;
Come September, 1961; It Started
in Naples, 1960; Gidget goes to Rome, 1963;
The Light in the Piazza, 1962 (a bit more serious than these
others); Rome Adventure, 1962;
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, 1968; more recently, there is the slightly more adult
Only You of 1994. More interesting movies are:
- BOBBY DEERFIELD
1977. With Al Pacino and Marthe Keller. Shot mostly in Florence, with lots of manipulated locations,
but it's still Florence. AP is a race car driver who's in a deep funk until he meets MK, who has
more problems than he does but at least is not a depressive. This is the sort of movie that people
either love or hate; it's supposed to be one of AP's favorites.
- OBSESSION 1976. Directed by
Brian De Palma and set mostly in Florence. Bernard Herrmann's last film
score. Be careful about reading the reviews at the link; some spoilers.
SUMMERTIME 1955. Directed by David Lean (as in Lawrence of
Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai) and starring Katherine
Hepburn. The entire film is set in Venice, where KH is vacationing.
Famous for its lavish Technicolor, the movie was recently restored. See
what Venice was like in the 50s, before 60 Minutes began making its
clucking reports about the crowds, dirt, and dishonesty of the natives.
One of the featured actresses here is Isa Miranda, who had been a big
star in Italian movies of the 30s and 40s. By the time DL saw her, she
had fallen on hard times, and looked it. She was so happy to have been
given a role in this film that she immediately (and without DL's
knowledge) undertook a total physical rejuvenation program: she lost
weight, got her hair dyed and redone, bought new clothes. When she
reported to work DL was livid; he'd hired the previous IM, not this new
spruced-up version. He found himself unable to work with her, and told KH
to direct their scenes together, which she did.
Do you have suggestions for other titles? Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Adrienne DeAngelis
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