Posts Tagged ‘La Dolce Vita’

Photography | Sweet Life / Cheap Shots

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Marcello Mastroianni,
on the set of La Dolce Vita

c 1960

The Years of La Dolce Vita
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
London | UK
Until 29th June 2014

Richard Burton
and Liz Taylor
kissing in Ischia
June 1962

Brigitte Bardot
in Spoleto
June 1961

Raquel Welch
and Marcello Mastroianni
at Cinecittà on
the set of the movie
Shoot Loud, Louder,
I do not understand …

Carlo Ponti,
Sophia Loren and
Vittorio De Sica
Rome, 1961

To put it plainly, in comparison to Hollywood, studio costs at Rome’s Cinecittà were cheap. Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were made there at a fraction of the budget required to produce such epics in the US. And when big stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Charlton Heston went there to work, their friends would tag along to play.

The day’s filming over, the action shifted to the streets. The presence of Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Alain Delon, and any number of cinema’s pantheon of stars who happened to be in town, in the restaurants and shopping on the exclusive Via Veneto transformed the street into an open-air film set.

If the 1950s and 60s were a golden age for Italian cinema, when home-grown directors Federico Fellini, Michaelangelo Antonioni, and Pier Paolo Pasolini came to the fore, making some of their most famous and successful movies, the era represented an absolute gold mine for photographers.

It was here that the term paparazzo – taken from the name of a photojournalist character in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) – was coined. It appears that Fellini’s screenwriter borrowed it from Italian poet Margherita Guidacci’s Sulla riva dello Jonio (1957), who in turn had used it in her translation of English author George Gissing’s travel book By the Ionian Sea (1901), in which a restaurant owner is called Coriolano Paparazzo. By the late 1960s, transformed into a noun – usually in the Italian plural form – paparazzi had entered the English language. Used to deride intrusive photographers, it can also sometimes be unfairly employed as a cheap shot at their camera-wielding, alleged persecutors by those who feel intruded upon.

The eighty photographs on view in The Years of La Dolce Vita exhibition at the Estorick Collection capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’), vividly evoking an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence enjoyed by Italian film stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s. Juxtaposing real-life images taken by Marcello Geppetti – among those on whom the paparazzo role in the film was based – whose work has drawn comparisons with that of Cartier-Bresson and Weegee – with behind-the-scenes shots on the film set by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini, the curators challenge visitors to consider their response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the guilty pleasure we take in looking at them.

All photographs Marcello Gepetti(1933-1998),
except top, Arturo Zavattini (1930 >).
All photographs MGMC & Solares Fondazione delle Arti,
except top,
Solares Fondazione delle Arti

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