Like most movies filmed on location, the location is a character in itself. The hills of Tuscany are a feature in Bernado Bertolucci’s beautiful coming of age film Stealing Beauty (1996).
Giorgio Armani designed the wardrobe for the main players and it is a tribute to the simple Italian lifestyle on full display throughout this film. Giorgio Armani first became known for wardrobe design in the 80’s when he designed Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton’s wardrobes for American Gigolo (1980). Other movies where Giorgio has contributed to the wardrobe are Gattaca (1997), Double Jeopardy (1999) De-Lovely (2004), Shop Girl (2005) to name a few.
Lucy (Liv Tyler) heads off for a swim upon arriving at her friend’s villa in Tuscany.
Stealing Beauty is lush and beautifully filmed. The Italian countryside is without doubt a major factor as to why I love this film so much. I watch it sometimes when it is cold outside, so that I may feel warm.
Rachel Weisz plays Miranda, the daughter of Diana, played by Sinèad Cusack.
In the wake of her mother’s suicide, Lucy, a 19 year-old American played by Liv Tyler, travels to Tuscany where she is to have her portrait sculpted by Ian, one of her family friends. Lucy has reason to believe that her true father is not the man she was raised by and so armed with her mother’s diary which is filled with whimsical verse and enigmatic poetry, she uses it to help unlock what she believes is her mother’s secret.
Lucy is still coming to terms with her mother’s suicide and as such her character is introspective, reflective and a little lost.
Lucy also has an infatuation with a boy she met when she was last in Tuscany with whom she shared her first kiss four years earlier. She secretly hopes that she will meet up again with Nicolo.
Liv is so beautiful to watch in the film, it is hard to take your eyes off her.
Lucy’s arrival peeks the particular interest of Alex, an ailing playwright (played by Jeremy Irons), who is dying of AIDS with a yearning for the spark of youth so obvious in Lucy. This is one of Jeremy’s most memorable roles and his character’s friendship with Lucy blossoms into one of platonic love and deep friendship. Alex’s musings about Lucy’s virginity ends up innocently and unfortunately quite blatantly involving the entire household with their gossip causing Lucy to be so embarrassed (and I don’t blame her!) that she is appalled and begins to make plans to fly back to America. But, it is then that Nicolo returns from traveling and she decides to forgive Alex. “Up here on this hill, the only thing we have to talk about is each other.” – Alex
“The incredible frivolity of the dying… You have to allow me a little frivolity” – Alex
Lucy herself is a budding poet, although she won’t admit it to herself or anyone else, always writing lines and then depositing them somewhere to be literally carried away be the breeze.
The three poems we see Lucy compose while in Italy are:
I have her secret deep within for years I’ve had to hide I’ve bought the clues And now I’m hope To bring the truth outside.
I wait I wait so patiently I’m as quiet as a cup I hope you’ll come and rattle me Quick! Come wake me up.
The dye is cast The dice are rolled I feel like shit you look like gold.
Lucy erupts with feeling and joy when she sees Nicolo for the first time since arriving in Italy, dancing around her studio and singing to her walkman.
Lucy’s presence has a profound effect on the jaded emotions of her hosts and their houseguests, reminding them of the pain and pleasure of youth. Lucy’s innocence stirs up a whirlwind of sensuality which, by the time she has embraced the solution to her own riddle, has changed their lives. The huge house party held at Nicolo’s parent’s house is decadent, and it is here that I think we see Lucy grow up just a little.
I love this movie for its soundtrack (John Lee Hooker, Portishead, Hoover, Cocteau Twins, Liz Phair, Nina Simone, et al), it’s cinematography, it’s characters, because of Liv, Jeremy and Sinead Cusack also. I feel like I’ve been on a little trip to Tuscany whenever I watch this and even though I cannot understand what Lucy sees in Nicolo – and eventually she asks herself the same question I am sure), it is still just a beautiful little film.
Ciao for now,