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Tag Archives: Tuscany

Stealing Beauty

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stealing beauty

Image credit: Stealing Beauty, 1996.

The votes are in, and it’s official: Stealing Beauty (Disc/Download) is the sexiest movie ever made.  Nobody is more shocked than I, that Bernardo “Pass the Butter” Bertolucci managed to make a film that speaks to the angst of being a woman rather than just a base exploitation of the female body.  As a director, he carries us on a journey of personal and sexual awakening, and believe me—it’s a trip you want to take.

Stealing Beauty features Liv Tyler as Lucy, a nineteen-year-old American vacationing at a Tuscan villa owned by family friends. She’s come to Italy to find her birth father and lose her virginity, though not necessarily in that order.  A testament to the folly of youth, Lucy thinks she wants her first time to be with predatory playboy Niccoló Donati, never realizing that his shy friend Osvaldo is the real catch.  Everyone staying at the villa seems to have an opinion on her love life, making Lucy alternately blush and/or run off into the scrub brush with no shoes.  Repeatedly. When the loss of her virginity finally happens, we’re so keyed up as viewers that it honestly does feel like a release.  The movie is alive with desire and wanting, placing us right there with her in the rolling, sun-warmed hills of Tuscany.

Because most of the villa’s inhabitants are English, and we all know how the Brits love their gin & tonics, I’ll be enjoying something that combines the flavors of Italy and England.  While watching Stealing Beauty, I recommend drinking this Tuscan G&T.

Tuscan G&T

2 ½ oz London dry gin

3 oz Italian dry red wine

½ oz simple syrup

Tonic Water

Orange and lime wheels for garnish

Combine gin, wine, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with tonic water, and garnish with orange and lime.

tuscan g&t

Despite its visual and thematic sensuality, Stealing Beauty isn’t just about sex; it’s about poetry and art and death and above all, life. It’s about being shaken up, to see if you really know yourself inside and out.  And of course, it’s about finding joy, whether it’s tits out in a sculpture garden, or diving for sunken treasure in the pool. Cheers!

Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About Nothing

Image credit: Much Ado About Nothing, 1993.

I am in full Summer Vacation-mode this week, and while my plans are a little less glamorous than a villa in Tuscany (sorry, Cape Cod, I still love ya), I’m still primed for a cinematic escape.  Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing (DVD/Download) is just the sun-drenched romp we all need this week.

The film opens with a radiant Emma Thompson in minimal makeup, sporting a golden tan and free-flowing hair. She and I share a similar vacation look, though in my case it usually involves a sunburnt scalp and last night’s mascara. Hey- we don’t all get to wear corseted linen gowns and eat grapes on a swing (I’m thinking this is a Tuscany-only thing).  Branaugh directs this Shakespearean tale of slick word battles, lovers’ quarrels, and mistaken identity with infectious glee, to the point where I can’t help but get swept up in the merriness. And Denzel Washington truly shines as Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. He’s charming and intelligent, and his connection with Emma Thompson’s Beatrice breaks your heart just a little. He’s the odd man out at the party, and lord, haven’t we all been there?

This film deserves a sparkling, effervescent drink that’s just as complex and delightful as Shakespeare’s text. Since this is set in Tuscany, I must use Aperol- that great Italian aperitif that practically screams summer vacay. While watching Much Ado About Nothing, I recommend drinking a Florentine Spritz.

Florentine Spritz

2 oz Gin

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz Aperol

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled)

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling Wine

Lime Wheel

Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lime wheel.

I love films based on Shakespearean plays because they help me to understand his work in a new light. Even though this film isn’t as modern as say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, or even Joss Wheden’s more recent version of Much Ado, it still draws me in to the story in a way that live theatre fails to do. Plus, Tuscany and Denzel in sexy leather pants. I’ll suffer through a sonnet or two for that. Cheers!