Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Dolce Vita Confidential

Christmas has come early for me with this terrific read, a new book on that Roman La Dolce Vita era, which really began in 1958 and into the early Sixties, that terrific time when Rome was the centre of the movie universe. Lets quote the blurb:
"Shawn Levy has composed an exuberant portrait of postwar Rome and the film-makers, movie stars, fashion designers, journalists and paparazzi whose supreme hunger, energy and creativity transformed it into the most stylish city in the world. He brings an infectious and free-wheeling enthusiasm to every page as he reintroduces us to the extravagant romanticism of fast cars, reckless hedonism and beautiful people behind the resurrection of the Eternal City.".

From the ashes of World War II, Rome was reborn as the epicenter of film, fashion, creative energy, tabloid media, and bold-faced libertinism that made Italian a global synonym for taste, style, and flair. A confluence of cultural contributions created a bright, burning moment in history: it was the heyday of fashion icons such as Pucci, whose use of color, line, and superb craftsmanship set the standard for womens clothing for decades, and Brioni, whose confident and classy creations for men inspired the contemporary American suit. Rome's huge movie studio, Cinecitta, also known as Hollywood-on-the Tiber, attracted a dizzying array of stars from Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Frank Sinatra to that stunning and combustible couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who began their extramarital affair during the making of Cleopatra. And behind these stars trailed street photographers Tazio Secchiarioli, Pierluigi Praturlon, and Marcello Gepetti who searched, waited, and pounced on their subjects in pursuit of the most unflattering and dramatic portraits of fame.
Fashionistas, exiles, moguls, and martyrs flocked to Rome hoping for a chance to experience and indulge in the glow of old money, new stars, fast cars, wanton libidos, and brazen news photographers. The scene was captured nowhere better than in Federico Fellini s masterpiece, La Dolce Vita, starring Marcello Mastroianni and the Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg. It was condemned for its licentiousness, when in fact Fellini was condemning the very excess, narcissism, and debauchery of Rome s bohemian scene.
Gossipy, colorful, and richly informed, Dolce Vita Confidential re-creates Rome's stunning ascent with vivid and compelling tales of its glitterati and artists, down to every last outrageous detail of the city's magnificent transformation.

Shawn Levy is new to me, but I like his vivid prose and great use of language. He captures it all here, the era of Ponti and De Laurentiis, Loren and Lollo, Fellini and Antonioni ("the anti-Fellini" as Shawn says, but he highly rates the Antonioni films), plus visiting stars like Belinda Lee, the Burtons and all that scandal. Rome is at the centre of it all, with of course all that Italian fashion - those stylish mens' suits, the new scooters and the rise of Italian food.
Eternal Rome: all roads lead to it, it wasn't built in a day, and when in Rome you do as the Romans do. 
As Levy says the Italian movie renaissance began with a destitute man and his son looking for his bicycle, and follows with a newspaperman on a Vespa scooting an errant princess through the picturesque ruins, and ends with another newspaperman, among a throng of hungover aristocrats, staring at the bloated corpse of a sea monster on a wind-swept beach. 
Along the way the producers, directors, hucksters, hanger-ons, playboys and playgirls, pararazzi and others had a whole lot of fun, and a lot of it is captured here. 
So, for lovers of Italian movies, and Italy in general, and the international high life, there is a lot to enjoy here. I am now looking forward to getting Levy's take on London in the Swinging Sixties: READY STEADY GO!  


  1. Sounds like a fun book, I'll keep an eye out for it.

  2. Don't know Levy either but this sounds like my kind of book especially as I once visited Cinecitta (well, the outside of it anyway). :)