The Best of Italian Culture

Just a reminder that La Piccola Scuola Italiana will be hosting a fabulous party in San Francisco on the 12th: La Dolce Vita 2008. The gala will raise funds to promote Italian language, heritage and culture through early childhood education. Event details are here.

For those who are wondering where the image above comes from — it’s not from “La Dolce Vita,” but from a film by another Italian genius: Luchino Visconti (it’s a still from “The Leopard,” starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.)

Visconti is one of my favorite filmmakers, and a true product of Italian culture at its highest level. I don’t know if we will ever see films such as his again — but good heavens, who in the world has the refinement, the erudition and the vision that he had?

I recently found a wonderful documentary about Visconti, which I shared with critic Camille Paglia. This week at salon.com she wrote the following in response:

“This documentary, directed by Adam Low and narrated by James Fox, is absolutely superb! I loved every minute of it and am so grateful to you for forwarding the link for interested Salon readers. The Mahler Adagietto movement suffusing the program (from his Fifth Symphony) is heavenly — though not all viewers of Visconti’s “Death in Venice” were as enamored of it in that film as I was.

There is a glut of visual riches: the chilling, baby-devouring serpent in the ancient Visconti heraldic crest, based on a Saracen shield captured in the Crusades; the drop-dead gorgeous family palazzos in northern Italy; Visconti’s stunning beauty as a young man; his unsettling 1925 self-portrait with his mother’s face inside of his; his handsome long-term lovers, director Franco Zeffirelli and actor Helmut Berger; the ultra-sophisticated Claudia Cardinale and Charlotte Rampling aging fabulously; and best of all, a clip from Bj√∂rn Andresen‘s screen test for “Death in Venice. ” (Visconti auditioned 1,500 boys for the role of Thomas Mann‘s androgynously charismatic Tadzio. Quel task, as Holly Golightly would say!)

Here are the YouTube chapters of the Visconti documentary: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

  • Further Information: La Dolce Vita 2008 [lpsisf.com]
  • Further Information: Camille Paglia [salon.com]
  • Further Information: Luchino Visconti documentary [youtube.com]