RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Italy

Purple Noon

Posted on
Image Credit: Purple Noon, 1960

We’re traveling back to good ole’ Mongibello this week with the original Tom Ripley, 1960s French sex symbol Alain Delon. Purple Noon (Disc/Download), née Plein Soleil, is a striking adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was adapted once again by Anthony Minghella in 1999 to become one of my top ten films of all time. I’m a sucker for beautiful people in beautiful places, and it doesn’t get much more beautiful than these two movies.

If you’ve seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, much of Purple Noon will appear familiar. Tom and “Philippe” cavorting around Rome while Marge sits at home and waits for her man to get his act together. Tom forging signatures, impersonating voices, acting almost too agreeable, too charming. Brash American Freddie Miles showing up to ruin all of Tom’s fun, before meeting his doom at the butt end of an ugly sculpture. Gorgeous Italian vistas, sailboats, and the sparkling Mediterranean. If you like Minghella’s Ripley because of the visuals, then I can guarantee you’ll love Purple Noon even more. The film is a little more poetic, lingering longer on the beauty of the coastline as well as the beauty of Delon. Like a young Jared Leto who actually cares about how he looks on-screen, Delon is all suntan, six-pack, and cheekbones, and director René Clément certainly knew what he had in this then-unknown actor, giving him ample opportunity to strut around shirtless. Thank you René. Thank you very much.

A lot of what I love about this story hinges on the idea of American decadence, so it seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in a beautiful niche liqueur, Creme de Violette. Let’s be clear- this stuff exists only so we can have purple cocktails. Like Midori or Blue Curacao, you’re buying this for the color. But hey- nothing wrong with that! Sometimes it’s all about the visuals. While watching Purple Noon, I recommend drinking this Twilight Martini.

Twilight Martini

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1/4 oz St. Germain

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of dried blood orange.

Ultimately, I think I still prefer the 1999 version of The Talented Mr. Ripley to the 1960 version. A lot of that has to do with the ending, and without spoiling Purple Noon too much, I’ll just say that I like a world where Tom Ripley gets away with it. We never see him hauled away in handcuffs in either adaptation, but Purple Noon gives him a more limited chance of escape. If you ask me, that pretty face just doesn’t belong in prison. Cheers!

Avanti!

Posted on
Image credit: Avanti!, 1972

I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, and it’s all Jack Lemmon’s fault. He makes the Italian island of Ischia look purely magical in this week’s film Avanti! (Disc/Download), an underrated Billy Wilder gem from the 1970s. Though Ischia and it’s highly Instagrammable Mezzatorre Hotel have long held a place on my travel bucket list, this film has moved it straight to the top. What I wouldn’t give to have a room with a view of the sea, thick coffee, an attentive concierge, and a waiter who will ply you with pasta until you forget all about your pesky diet back home. When swimming naked in the Mediterranean is an option, who cares how you look in a bathing suit?

Of course, it’s not all skinny dipping and afternoon prosecco. Jack Lemmon’s character Wendell Armbruster arrives on the island to claim the body of his father, who died in a car crash with his mistress in the passenger seat. The daughter of this mistress is played by Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley), and though Wendell and Ms. Piggott start the film as strangers, they eventually pick up where their parents left off. I watched this film at a weird time in my life, having just spent six weeks dealing with my father’s death and all the legal headaches accompanying it. To say that I identify with Wendell’s frustration about how long and complicated the processes of body transport, death certificates, and funeral arrangements are would be an understatement (and similar to Ischia, nobody works weekends in Florida either). But what I loved about this movie is that by the end, Wendell is able to move past the minutia of death to truly celebrate the life his father lived, in the place where he was happiest. That is how we honor the dead, by experiencing the joy they would have wanted for us.

My one quibble with this fabulous movie is the unfortunate body dysmorphia and fat shaming experienced by Ms. Piggott (even the name is like an underhanded dig at the character). I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe that the gorgeous Juliet Mills is overweight, but let’s just say by 2021 standards she is not. Luckily, after a couple Bacardi cocktails al fresco, she’s able to loosen up and enjoy herself without counting every calorie. Let’s join in the fun with this rum-based cocktail. While watching Avanti!, I recommend drinking a Daffodil.

Daffodil

1 1/2 oz Bacardi White Rum

1 oz Cocchi Americano

1 1/4 oz Orgeat

1 oz Lime Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Dried Orange slice for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Fill a tumbler with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into prepared glass. Garnish with a dried orange slice (or twist of orange).

There’s a moment in Avanti! where Juliet Mills says, “Italy is not a country- it’s an emotion.” What this film captures so well are the complex emotions of love, loss, humor, frustration, and longing. After living through a year where it seems everything came to a complete stop, what a relief it is to hear the word avanti. In English, it means move forward. Proceed with living. Cheers!

Summertime

Posted on

Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Call Me by Your Name

Posted on

call me by your name

Image credit: Call Me By Your Name, 2017.

I’ve already featured this week’s film Call Me by Your Name (Disc/Download) on my Top Five list for 2017, but now it’s time for an official cocktail pairing.  And let’s face it- I’ll use any excuse to sink into the eyes of Timothée Chalamet for a couple hours. Join me in remembering what it was like to be young, in love, and very very passionate about fruit.

Based on the gut-wrenchingly beautiful novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is set in a small Italian village in 1983. Archaeology grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) travels to a professor’s villa in Italy to help with research for the summer.  There he meets the professor’s teenage son Elio, and the two share flirtatious glances across the breakfast table.  Tension builds and builds, until at long last they become lovers.  Everything about this movie is beautiful, from the romantic script by James Ivory, to the lush scenery of Italy, to the haunting Sufjan Stevens soundtrack, and it feels like a vacation that’s just too perfect to last.  Kind of like the love story of Elio and Oliver.

I’ll admit, the peach scene in this film left me pretty aghast and/or awestruck, but it also inspired me to make a tasty summertime cocktail.  While watching Call Me by Your Name, I recommend drinking a Peach Collins.

Peach Collins

1 ½ oz Deep Eddy Peach Vodka

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Splash of club soda

Peach slice for garnish

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until combined and chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a peach slice.

peach collins

There’s been talk of a sequel to this film, which excites me to no end.  Having read the book, I can say there’s definitely more to Elio and Oliver’s story that’s deserving of screen time.  In the meantime, we can sit in front of the fireplace and sob, wishing things could be different.  Wishing more movies like this got made- movies that show us love, and all its many forms, in beautiful, sun-dappled light.  Cheers!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Posted on

Photo Credit:  Miramax 1999

Photo Credit: Miramax 1999

As much of the country is in the death grip of winter cold this week, I felt inspired to watch a movie that features sailboat cruises on the Mediterranean, leisurely cocktail hours, fabulous 1950’s fashions, and a suntanned and shirtless Jude Law. Based on the thrilling novel by Patricia Highsmith and produced during Miramax’s heyday of the late 1990’s, The Talented Mr. Ripley is one delicious Italian travel postcard. It tells the story of Dickie Greenleaf (played by the magnetically charismatic Jude Law), a trust fund ex-pat who spends his days lounging on the Italian Riviera with his girlfriend Marge (played by an enviably tanned and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow). Matt Damon plays the title character Tom Ripley, who travels to Italy at the behest of Dickie’s father in order to lure Dickie back to the US, but instead he ends up befriending him, falling in love with him, and then becoming dangerously obsessed with him.

If you haven’t seen this film before, or if it’s been awhile, I strongly urge you to check it out. Watching it makes you realize why Law, Paltrow, and Damon became the huge stars that they did, and in addition, the fabulous Cate Blanchett turns in a performance as a wealthy American socialite that shows us why she was born to play Kathrine Hepburn in The Aviator. This movie always makes me want to travel back to Italy, and spend my time lounging the days away while moving at a much slower pace than I would ever allow myself to do at home. I want to get tanned, drink martinis, write on a vintage typewriter, travel to underground jazz clubs in Rome, and eat fresh pasta (while still fitting into 1950’s couture dresses). A person can dream can’t they?

For this week’s cocktail pairing, I’m keeping it pretty simple. This is a drink I often serve at parties because it’s easy to make and strong enough that I don’t have to spend all night behind the bar doing refills. When watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, I suggest pairing it with a Limoncello Martini:

Margie’s Limoncello Martini

1 oz Gin

1 oz Limoncello (perhaps you’ve picked up a bottle during your own Italian vacation?)

1 lemon twist

Combine the gin and limoncello with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold (COLD being the key here), and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

limoncello-martini

This drink is perfect for the film because it evokes Italian sunsets and is meant to be sipped slowly. Martini-making abilities are a prized commodity with this set of characters, so I feel as though I’d fit in nicely with the 1950’s ex-pats. With a chilled Limoncello Martini in my hand, and two hours spent doing nothing but enjoying this film, I feel like I’m getting there. So set your martini glass outside a minute in these freezing temps to chill, put on The Talented Mr. Ripley, and pretend that the noise you just heard rattling your window is a warm Mediterranean breeze (not a frigid Arctic blast). Cheers!