22 September 2015

Movie Parallels: "Gone With The Wind" vs. "Star Wars Episode V"

Other readers and fans have noted and pointed out this fact, but I'd like to reinstate just how similar the two romantic segments between the protagonists from the novel, "Gone With The Wind" (Margaret Mitchell, 1936), and the movie, "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" (Irvin Kershner, 1980), are, respectively. All in all, GWTW and Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler's relationship seem to have been a great inspiration for George Lucas to create the iconic sexual tension and bantering between Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in the Star Wars film series. Not that we mind it at all, though, do we? ;)

First, the sequence from "Gone With The Wind" (the novel):

(Rhett is caressing Scarlett's hand) "Don't pull away! I won't hurt you!"
"Hurt me? I'm not afraid of you, Rhett Butler, or any man in shoe leather!" she cried, furious that her voice shook as well as her hands.
"An admirable sentiment, but do lower your voice. Mrs. Wilkes might hear you. And pray compose yourself." He sounded as though delighted at her flurry.
"Scarlett, you do like me, don't you?"
That was more like what she was expecting.
"Well, sometimes." she answered cautiously. "When you aren't acting like a varmint."
He laughed again and held the palm of her hand against his hard cheek.
"I think you like me because I am a varmint. You've known so few dyed-in-the-wool varmints in your sheltered life that my very difference holds a quaint charm for you."
This was not what she had anticipated and she tried again without success to pull her hand free.
"That's not true! I like nice men--men you can depend on to always be gentlemanly."

And then notice the similar dialogue used in "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back":

HAN: Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I'm all right.
LEIA: Occasionally maybe...when you aren't acting like a scoundrel.
HAN: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that. *massages hand*
LEIA: Stop that.
HAN: Stop what?
LEIA: Stop that! My hands are dirty.
HAN: My hands are dirty, too. What are you afraid of?
LEIA: Afraid?
HAN: You're trembling.
LEIA: I'm not trembling.
HAN: You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life.
LEIA: I happen to like nice men.
HAN: I'm a nice man.
LEIA: No, you're not. You're... *kiss!* 

16 September 2015

Reasons for starting and keeping a blog (from my own experience)

Hello my fellow bloggers and to all you newcomers in the blogosphere out there!

If you are or ever have been in any doubt about wanting to start or keeping a blog - even at a humble, 'amateur' level - I want to tell you some of the benefits I've had by keeping a blog and sticking to it through the years, no matter its content or purpose.

A blog was for not that many years ago regarded as a somewhat silly past-time hobby to have; like keeping a diary online or just collecting all the private things made public on social medias such as Facebook in one, less distracting place. You could have more free reins with the design of the blog as well as who you wanted as your target audience. That, of course, is still the case, except it has become far more accepted to keep a blog as a part of your professional life or area of interest. The voice of bloggers in general is being taken seriously as well.
Besides, blogging is a quick and easy way of publishing your opinion upon a relevant subject, get comments and feedback and get a discussion going. You get to reach people on the other side of the earth and also have easier access to the younger audience who get their news mostly online rather than through the old medias such as newspapers and TV and you hereby avoid any unnecessary bureaucracy that comes with publishing through the latters. In that sense, social media and blogging are revolutionizing because through those platforms every voice can publish and be heard in a way that wasn't possible before [the Internet]. However, with such a huge leap into that part of the globalization, one has to adopt a critical eye/ear as well. Private and public spheres mix to a greater extent than prior. Imagine one infinite section of reader's letters and consider who and where all the voices come from when you read the different 'voices'. As my point is: always keep an open, yet critical mind to everything you read.

Anyway, let's scale down a bit again. 
My own blog, this blog, is an amateur blog, if you'd call it that, in the sense that I never had a specific or scientific purpose other than wanting to write about (old) movies, TV, culture and day-to-day stuff I observed in my life. So has it progressed over the years, gradually and naturally with more academic knowledge filled in between the lines after I started at university. Still not in the league with the scholars and their academic blogs but still with a potential for a (pop)cultural critique of the world, so to speak, online. At least, (and not to toot my own horn) I find myself discovering some rather interesting, albeit half-done, points I've made throughout the years and which are worth re-examining in a more theoretical and critical way - even my own methods and thinking. It's even better when you stumble across points made in class by a scholar and you realize you came across this particular field years earlier when you examined a certain phenomenon or film etc.. Only now you have a term for it. Suddenly you have a great example or idea for your next written assignment - with legitimate theory to apply!
I tell ya, it makes all the difference if you as a 15-year-old tried to convey a serious and passionate point about a (pop)cultural matter (which are hardly taken seriously in the first place) but all you had was your own conviction as an argument which wasn't enough to dissuade people's skepsis. And it gets to the point where you yourself gets so frustrated with your own inabilities to legitimize your words that you start to disbelieve even yourself and whether it really is just 'silly stuff' to be interested in..! Ugh, it's the worst! But then you start at university, studying the very things you've always spoken so passionately about, and now you actually have older peers and scholars and famous theorists arguing, explaining and confirming all those points and thoughts you had as a kid..!! I'm a bit embarrassed to say so, but one of the best feelings I know is when you can shoot down sceptic, ignorant and/or arrogant attitudes about 'all that silly stuff' such as film, TV and comics and other cultural phenomenons with truly legitimate arguments and back it up your own words on top of that. You follow?

Anyway, what I want to say is that a blog is great way for following your own progress throughout your life, your growth of mind and soul, your intellect and values, how you view you the world; everything you more or less take for granted when the days, months and years roll by and suddenly a decade has past and you wonder how much you've changed, whether you've changed at all or stayed the same? Have you learned anything, and what can you give the world in return? What can you be and where will you end up? A blog is like a diary - with dates and all - you can go through and review or (re)use in different areas of your life, not necessarily directly, but indirectly; to have in the back of your mind; that thing you once wrote at that certain point in your life, now seen in a new perspective, a new light, have it confirmed, re-affirmed, denied or challenged. From that you grow, you develop, and you learn - not just about yourself but all the stuff around you. Even those innermost treasured matters you fought so dearly to protect as a kid, you learn, can be challenged and reviewed, and not always for the worse. At least, that's what I've experienced over the years. And I hope you will as well.

27 August 2015

Banksy at the Warrington Museum & Art Gallery exhibition "(R)Evolution of Urban Art" (2009)

Kate, Banksy 2005

“Beauty? What is that? Beauty itself is nothing.”
     - Andy Warhol

Banksy has taken Warhol’s image of Marilyn Monroe and replaced her face with that of Kate Moss, who represents for her generation something of what Monroe did for hers. Moss’ image is very widely known through its use in advertising, fashion etc. Banksy has taken an icon from today, as Warhol did in the 1960s, and satirised it in this portrait. For Warhol, the purpose of the Monroe portrait was to integrate an everyday image, something never considered to relate to ‘high art’, into his own art. 
The theories of semiotics circulated by Roland Barthes and Theodore Adorno have a great relevance to the work of Warhol, and by extension, Banksy. Barthes and Adorno argued that a myth is created when an image (or word etc) is taken from its original context, which is then silenced and placed to one side, though never forgotten. The image alone can then take on whatever meaning, history and idea the creators wish to give it. Warhol has taken the image of a famous film star, and whilst her history and story are relevant and widely known, they are not allowed to become the focus of the piece. Instead, by multiplying, re-colouring and chopping the image, Warhol makes his own agenda the subject of the myth. People seeing the image may know of Monroe’s story, but what they see in Warhol’s work is the repetition of fame, the falsehoods etc. Banksy adds to this myth: the idea of replacement becomes part of it, for Moss’ image is for Banksy what Monroe’s was for Warhol, and yet there is no conceptual difference between them, all that has changed is that Banksy is saying that not only is fame/Hollywood/celebrity repetitive and illusory, those involved are also thoroughly replaceable. Banksy’s piece also implies a certain lack of imagination on the part of the media world, and also, perhaps, on art itself.
Andy Warhol’s 1962 print, ‘Marilyn’, shows the face of Marilyn Monroe reproduced many times and printed in bright colours; it is, essentially, the direct ancestor and inspiration for Banksy’s ‘Kate’. Warhol chose sex symbol Marilyn Monroe as his model for a series of prints which speak of celebrity culture and the use of iconography. Warhol understood, saw through, and yet was fascinated by the nature of pop culture and media imaging. He was concerned with representing an image in a way that would shape its meaning, despite there already being a back story behind the subject itself. Just as Banksy has not set out to make a nice picture of Kate Moss herself, Warhol used Monroe as a symbol of a wider message.

19 June 2015

A Political Input: Come on, Denmark! You can do better!

Wow. Not particularly proud of my country (Denmark) right now after the general election yesterday. I don’t know whether those who have voted right-wing are afraid or desperate or just plain stupid since it has come to this ... Goddammit - I know we can do better than this! We KNOW better than this..! You probably all hate us right now (which is understandable, really, and it wouldn’t be the first time).
However, the right-wing parties only won marginally. Half of us haven’t gone over to ‘the dark side’ yet. I know many headliners around the world make it sound like we have, and this new government may very well manage to tighten the noose around culture, education, immigration, integration, our longtime partnership with EU and any other human decency before they are let go. But believe me, half of us will put up a fight all along! So many of my peers and fellow students find it appalling the turn this election has taken.
We are a little, fairly unknown country of no significant consequence, but we are privileged on so many levels - compared to so many others who have little to nothing, and it still matters how we are viewed by and how our choices reflect upon those around us. Unfortunately, few Danes realize this and are mostly concerned with themselves and their own lives. That’s why this election has bothered me so much: We, of all people, can and must choose to take a stand against everything that is happening around us: right-wing extremism, xenophobia, etc.. Not because we are better, but because we know better. We are a tight-knitted community who must be able to show an example of how to treat your neighbor, your next of kin, with tolerance and respect. To help those most in need. To dare speak our minds; where nothing is too holy to debate, criticize or confront, not even our own methods. That is some of our greatest virtues, I believe. However, our general nitpicking, navel-gazing, and taking too much for granted are our biggest vices. Whether it’s because of our welfare model; that we’ve become too content and self-absorbed, or if it’s a cultural thing; a mentality we’ve established throughout time and become renown for, I can’t say. A dry satirist would say that Denmark is, roughly, a strange composite of navel-gazing inhabitants who rarely go anywhere but Majorca when they travel, and ambivalent cosmopolitans who know better but too often become disappointed in politics.
I may be wrong and utterly naive. But the image we are sending right now is one of hostility; hostility towards anything that isn’t us or isn’t with us, and it is far from the picture I have or want to send of my own country. Right now, in a ideologically divided Europe that is also in an economic crisis, we do not need another hostile front. Nor does the rest of the world that too battles crises of various kinds. It will do us no good. Not now and not in the long run. I only hope my generation will try to do better.

27 May 2015

Going to Italy: Cinema, Hollywood and Romance on the Tiber

I'm going to Rome with the family this early fall, having never been there before (or anywhere in Italy for that matter), despite having pretty much grown up in an well-traveled, Italophile home. I'm looking forward to it, because of - well, all the above reasons, but also because I've been interested in art of all kinds since a young age, and you simply cannot avoid coming across Italian culture and history when it comes to neither music, architecture, theatre, sculpture, painting, food, film, etc., etc.. There's SO MUCH to see in Rome that has just been piling up on my to-do-list over the years, so that's a big plus. But also because I - being a classic film fan - have watched several romanticized Hollywood renditions of the famous city throughout my youth - and I mean, who wouldn't want to visit the city as epitomized in "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck?

Roman Holiday

Though, I must admit not everything Italian has always struck my fancy. It has always been my father's italophile influence that has surrounded everything Italian I came in contact with. He loves the food, the opera, the film makers, etc.. I'm not a big opera fan, but as a kid I fell in love with Maria Callas' recording of Bizet's "Carmen" (I imagined I was the evil queen from Snow White, waltzing majestically around in a big cape, haha!), and I liked Mozart's "The Magic Flute" as well (but that's also one of the more kids-friendly operas, I guess). None of them Italian, I know, but I guess it still somewhat counts since it all started in Italy, anyway ;)

My father was at one point convinced that me and my sister would love Fellini's "Roma" (1972) and find it as amazing as he did, even though we were perhaps a bit too young to understand the more than two hour long, poetic film ... Every time it has been mentioned since then he's spend the time demonstratively, passive-aggressively 'apologizing' for showing us such a film (his usual mode, ugh). Oh well, maybe we were a bit too loud and exaggerating in our critic at the time, but I also think we were simply too young. Besides, he practically sold the film solely on the basis of his own, personal childhood experience of arriving in Rome by train for the first time as a small boy (just as the main character in the film does), which isn't always the best way of selling a film to kids. There are also many cultural, inside jokes to account for when your parents choose a film director who has a specific style only they are familiar with, as well as a better understanding of a specific culture i.e. the Italians, Italian cinema and all its hidden commentaries to its society and history, and then continue to laugh at places kids just don't get. But I guess that's an everlasting dilemma when growing up, trying to understand and coming to terms with the world.

To begin with I found some of the old masters of Italian cinema to be frightfully grandiose and theatrical - like their opera and everything else they did - as well as hypocritical in their portrayals of women, painting them as stereotypical as Edward Munch did; as the virgin, the mother, the vampire, the prostitute or the old woman; praising and chauvinistic at the same time. But as I got older I realized many other (film) industries and directors have done so as well, just without me being aware of it before. Italian cinema may have been more ambiguous than what appeared to be - and always with a great sense of humor - though I don't doubt some of these boisterous fellas behind the cameras had as many personal faults as some of the masters in Hollywood (such as Hitchcock, Ford or Welles). I'm still not sure about the portrayals of women in (classic) Italian cinema, though.
The most male-centered of them all is perhaps Sergio Leone, but I simply adore that man and all his spaghetti westerns (despite he basically was a copycat of Kurosawa), as well as his genius collaboration with composer Ennio Morricone! I know, it may be a betrayal to my sex (his films are practically devoid of women when they aren't used as rag dolls) - but his films are just so meta-commentating, so pre-postmodern, so self-mythologizing about its own genre and the American western, that it really doesn't matter that much in the long run.
Also, as I got older, I began to appreciate the baroque feeling of Fellini, the naked neo-realism of Rossellini or the patient dramas of Visconti and Bertolucci (I've even sat through some of Pasolini's highly controversial films!). I guess, it was this over-all unapologetic feeling Italian cinema had about itself that was and is so unique; seemingly highly self-aware and satiric, unafraid of controversies, the grotesque and the dirty; of cutting into the bone and beyond. There's this distinct European or rather South European feeling tied to it, which sometimes only Europeans understand or recognize, as it so often is with different cultures. I began to understand just how big influences they were on film-making in general, such as the Nouvelle Vague in France - or in Hollywood (albeit the Americans were a bit slower to pick up on these new trends in their mainstream productions and have mainly stuck to their classic models, even to this day). 

So, speaking of Hollywood (and really the subject of this post - I apologize for the digressions once again), their renditions of Italy were, as said, much more romanticized than realistic or anything artsy and fancy than what the Italian film makers experimented with. No experiments here! Nope! Just good, old-fashioned romance after the typical, naturalistic Hollywood model.

Hollywood on the Tiber became the name of an era of film making in the 1950s and 1960s where in particular Rome or other parts of Italy became the center of the plots, given all the history, drama and romance the country had to offer (though, one could argue other countries had so as well). In contrast to the native Italian film industry, these were English speaking productions, targeted mainly American and British audiences. There were all the 'usual' epic, swords-and-sandals-films and then, of course, the romantic comedies set in a - at that time - contemporary yet romanticized setting. Usually single, young, innocent girls or lonely, wallflower spinsters from the Western hemisphere vacating there and meeting their handsome, exotic Prince Charming or just a fellow - yet equally dazzling - American. And then the chase goes - however slow or fast, up- or down-hill it may go. I will look closer at a couple of films from this genre in the following paragraphs. (There may be spoilers ahead!)
However, as time went on, the native Italian industry gained footing and escalated in popularity, but not without borrowing from Hollywood and its classic genres, as the swords-and-sandals films continued and the highly popular Spaghetti Westerns came about. The values of the 1950s were slipping in the sand and its idyllic visions of Italy disturbed by new and violent images of the 1960s.

Back to the topic, one of the most enduring and classic examples of Hollywood's settlement in Italy at the time is of course William Wyler's timeless "Roman Holiday" (1953). Also remembered by being Audrey Hepburn's breakthrough role as well as her first and only Oscar-winning role. I don't know what to say about it that hasn't already been said, other than I love it and that it's one of those films you'll never get tired of watching. Sentimental yes, but never so much it gets soppy or cheesy (albeit, you could call it a tear-jerker because of its ending). It is both light and serious, funny and heart-breaking. Audrey is one of the most authentic, humble and unpretentious actresses that has ever lived and she never fails to bring that to a role. Gregory too brings his ever so solid, yet gentle, calm and believable personality to the table, and the fact that he insisted on giving Audrey equal billing for her role makes him all the more 'the Gentleman Icon', as I choose to call him. I wonder that if it had included the natural expectation of a happy ending, whether its legacy would have run as far as it has today? Audrey is wonderful as always and Greg as handsome as ever and together they make a brilliant team, but would we have liked them just as much, felt for them just as much, if they had ended up in each other's arms? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We cannot be sure now, but its legacy has definitely cemented itself in film history.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

The following year came another romantic 'comedy' film set in Rome: "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) directed by Jean Negulesco.
The movie itself is basically a lovey-dovey, or let's use the wonderful word 'schmaltzy', feel-good story, or rather: a battle of beauty between the younger cast members which include Jean Peters, Maggie McNamara, Dorothy McGuire, Louis Jourdan and Rossano Brazzi. Hot dayum, what a cast! Personally, they couldn't find much more beautiful, alluring, exotic and refined gentlemen from France and Italy, respectively. Those brown, puppy dog gazes - and those accents, oh boy! I could listen to them speak all day long. And the women are equally beautiful in each their compelling ways that never bore you, despite their character stories are rather contrived and limited: Jean is sensual, cynical, yet never one-dimensional, Maggie is waif-like, naive, curious a la Jean Simmons/Audrey Hepburn, and Dorothy is mature, yet shining, almost childlike in her enthusiasm and sorrow.
And even more a battle between the beauty of the cast and the beauty of the city, Rome, shot on location, and also a short peak of Venice! Not many films of that era takes us round the streets and sceneries of a 1950s' Rome, so all in all, the film is definitely worth a watch for all its eye candy (cast included) ;)

Dorothy McGuire (left), Maggie McNamara (middle) and Jean Peters (right)

However, its plot lives up to its era and that it's Hollywood produced. It's awfully antiquated, as expected, when it comes to values regarding female roles and what women are taught: That their sole purpose in life is to find a man, or more precisely, a husband. A rich, eligible husband.
One of the women is disillusioned (Jean Peters' character), another still carries around (false, declining) hope (Dorothy McGuire's character) and a third arrives to fulfill the above goal no matter the means (Maggie McNamara's character). The three single girls and secretaries of course get three male components to seek out: Jean's meeting with a poor, rural, soon-to-be-lawyer (Rossano Brazzi's character) just as she is about to leave the country, Dorothy's unrequited love for her unaware, curmudgeonly employer (Clifton Webb's character) and Maggie's manipulative, yet naive and highly worrisome pursue of Rome's royal playboy numero uno (Louis Jourdan's character).

Rossano Brazzi
Louis Jourdan

When I first came across Jean Peters I must admit I was afraid she was just another stoic, pretty Jeanne Crain-face but she has surprised me every time I've watched her. She's got this pouty-seductive, girly-yet-womanly panache going on and boasts of a dry, intelligent wit and determination, not without an enthralling, melancholy vulnerability attached to it, which makes her an odd combination of depressive and beautiful in a very human, relatable sort of way (Hedy Lamarr had the same feeling about her, but just seemed more like a goddess than a human). You can almost feel Jean's inner fight for being regarded as more than a sex symbol shine through some of her more sarcastically delivered lines in several of her movies.

I haven't watched Dorothy McGuire before and though her character in this one is a bit of a pushover and a wallflower, she surprised me with a serene sense of depth and warmth as well as a very cute and funny drunk performance in the end of the film. She doesn't at all appear as the no-good, unattractive spinster, whose life has practically ended because she isn't married (Dorothy is only 36 here, for crying out loud!), as she is painted out to be and it makes me so angry to think if all women back then truly thought of themselves like this at that age or that they were 'told' to feel so by society! The idea that women should put so much effort into being something of value (for the men), whereas the men just are valued! You feel like shaking some sense and self-respect back into these women; to tell them to stop serving the men and go make their own happiness - which is possible without the men! Okay, I'm ranting again, but those 1950s ideals just get on my nerves sometimes! At least, "Roman Holiday" had the decency to be a bit more creative and modern with the whole 'romantic chase'-thing, if you could call it that.

Maggie McNamara invokes, as I said before, the Jean Simmons/Audrey Hepburn vibe, but sadly falls in between the two of them, not really personalizing the role (or gets enough time or material to do so). She gives her character that cute, naive, curious trait that you would think is just right for Louis Jourdan's notorious playboy character, but she does everything wrong - in the most demeaning and cringe-worthy of ways (especially for a feminist)! - by deleting herself and wooing him solely based on what HE likes. Of course, she ends up realizing how wrong this is when he truly falls for her, and in the end admits stringing him along. Unfortunately - and highly unsettling - they do end up together despite this, which makes one wonder how this could come to be if his love for her was based on an entire lie and, the fact, that they have nothing in common??
Like Laura, the couple I was most interested in, Jean Peters and Rossano Brazzi's characters (and two of my favorite actors), had the least amount of screen time, which is a shame.

Jean Peters (left), Maggie McNamara (middle) and Dorothy McGuire (right)

Clifton Webb, who plays Dorothy McGuire's employer, is always a treat to watch in all his cool, acerbic flamboyance - which worked perfectly in "Laura" (1944) - but here his surprisingly badly concealed sexuality unfortunately skews the plot to become something else than a man motivated to get married because he is on his death bed and because his sweet and lonely secretary is in love with him. Suddenly it becomes a homosexual man's last resort to save himself and his secretary from further loneliness - in a world that doesn't look kindly on his sexual preferences or her spinsterhood. And then suddenly the reason behind her unrequited love for him has an entire new meaning than what she assumes: That she's just not an attractive enough woman for him. Maybe I'm just reading things into it and I'm definitely sure there was no intention whatsoever by the film makers or studio to hint to this. Though it surprises me that they didn't at least try to make him seem 'less' flamboyant in that case or choose another actor to play the role (Webb, as I said, is brilliant being himself, but I doubt he could be any less himself, and I would be sorry to see him try that). Don't get me wrong, I almost wish it was intentional; that it was some sort of hidden commentary to the bigoted, polished society of the 1950s' view and horrible treatment of homosexuals, but sadly, the film never goes that deep. Actually, don't expect any film from the 1950s to touch on such sensitive subjects directly (I can't even think of any that did it indirectly... "Rebels Without a Cause" perhaps?). Instead watch Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" from 2002 which deals with those matters and comes highly recommendable.

In Venice

At the Trevi Fountain in Rome

The single girl/spinster/secretary-topic was apparently hot in the '50s and continued the following year with David Lean's "Summertime" (1955), starring one of my favorite actresses, Katharine Hepburn, and, once again, handsome Rossano Brazzi in the lead roles; this time shot in beautiful Venice. I really want to experience this version of Venice when I go visit it one day, but having heard rather off-putting stories of how the tourism has practically invaded the place I'm afraid it cannot be quite as idyllic and peaceful as portrayed by Lean. Anyway, I just want go there before it drowns.

Katharine plays the single, middle-aged (Kate is 48 at the time) secretary, Jane Hudson, who travels to Venice on a long awaited summer vacation and encounters the younger, swarthy, dashing Renato (Brazzi) eyeing her up in a café. At first she is put off by this and hurries away, but when she meets him again by chance, she slowly becomes attracted to him yet is confused by her feelings and keeps him at bay when he starts to pursue her. Eventually, she gives in and they start a sweet, but passionate romance. When he admits being separated from his wife, it throws her off, but he convinces her to seize the day and give in to what he offers. However, in the end, she sees their relationship as eventually doomed, and despite his protests she returns to America with a bittersweet farewell between the two lovers.

Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi in Summertime

On the surface, it is a somewhat cliché tale of a 'prudish', American spinster who tries to hold the moral high ground when she meets the younger, exotic and dashing foreigner who pursues her. Any other actress in the role of Jane Hudson would have seem pitiful to the point of laughable, or maybe it's just me who cannot picture the film without Katharine's great sense of vulnerability and human insight. If it wasn't for Katharine's wide-ranging acting abilities and David Lean's sensitive direction the film might not still be able to power through with its quiet and surprisingly relevant philosophy about life and loneliness. 

I think we can conclude, in its essence (and most stereotypically of fashions), there's something beautifully tragic or melancholy-romantic about Italy that just draws lonely people to it. People who hasn't much else in life to live for; people who are sensitive, contemplative, who appreciate and seek out beauty and put up walls or facades to protect themselves from temptations, but end up giving in to them, despite inner struggles of what one should or shouldn't do. Just like Gustav von Aschenbach in Visconti's "Death in Venice" (1971). Some seek solace, romance or adventure; the exotic and different; where time and history stand still yet live; while others simply run from their old lives or present situations at home.

Death in Venice

These films also made me think of American photographer Ruth Orkin's wonderful illustrative series of photographies from when she was a young girl in the 1950s and went alone to Italy. There she met a fellow American, Ninalee Craig (also known as Jinx Allen) and used her as a model for her experiences in Italy. I find the pictures very much invoke many of the feelings from the above-mentioned films and give you a sense of how it was (and maybe still is) to be a young, single girl travelling in a foreign country on her own:

Ruth Orkin's most famous photo: American Girl in Italy, 1951

Maybe when I return from my vacation this fall, I'll be able to recognize some of these portrayals of being a foreigner visiting Italy. I've already romanticized the hell out of Paris and the real thing has yet to disappoint me.
Who knows? Maybe I'll meet my own Rossano Brazzi and make him fall in love with me..? (Nah, I wish!)

Hubba hubba!


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