Category Archives: Italy.

Michèle Mercier: French Italian Screen Goddess Known As Angélique.

Michèle Mercier
Michèle Mercier (born New Year’s Day 1939) is a French actress perhaps best known for playing the lead role of Angélique in the mid1960s film series of the same name based on the 1956 sensational novel Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by husband and wife writing team of Anne and Serge Golon.  Their mid-17th century character was based on a real life Suzanne du Plessis-Bellière who was one of France’s most famous women from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The historical Suzanne first appeared in a French novel in the mid-nineteenth century, one by Alexandre Dumas, père, called Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard. Similar to these 5 films inspired by the Golons’ novel of (by 1961) six books — Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels which is the first book published in 1957 (the novel expanded to 13 books after the 1964 film’s release) — Dumas’s novel, the third of his d’Artagnan trilogy, was also serialized in popular media from 1847 to 1850.

But this post is not simply about Michèle Mercier as Angélique, but a modern French Italian beauty who entered the pantheon of screen goddesses out of that legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968. Michèle MercierMichèle Mercier

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Michèle Mercier

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Michèle Mercier

For the part of Angélique, many other beautiful and more famous actresses were approached before Michèle Mercier who was little known in the French cinema at the time. Seasoned French film producer Francis Cosne (1916-1984) wanted sex symbol Brigitte Bardot to play the part, but she rejected the offer. Young Catherine Deneuve was considered perhaps too naive for the lusty role. American Jane Fonda spoke French but could any American really play well this quintessentially French role? Italian beauty Virna Lisi was too busy doing Hollywood films. Not being already famous eliminated statuesque Danish actress Annette Stroyberg from the running until ultimately Michèle Mercier was decided upon after almost losing the part to French actress Marina Vlady who at the last minute didn’t sign the contract.

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Michèle Mercier as Angélique

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Michèle Mercier

Michèle Mercier

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Michèle Mercier

When the opportunity of Angélique presented itself to Michèle Mercier, she was a relative newcomer to the French cinema – but this was not the case for her either in French theatre arts or Italian films where before 1964 she had acted in over 20 of them. With a father who was French and mother who was Italian,  Michèle Mercier from her early teens growing up in Nice, France, was determined to be a professional ballet dancer. In 1957, at 17 years old, she moved to Paris which was a decision that changed her life. By 1960, when she was just 20 years old, she was acting in French New Wave film director François Truffaut’s second film, Shoot The Piano Player. 

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Michèle Mercier

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After Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels was released — an unlikely heroine’s role where Angélique’s singular flaming red-haired beauty is acknowledged throughout — the role became a blessing and a curse for the budding actress Michèle Mercier. It catapulted her to instant stardom so that her fame rivaled sex symbol Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the role in 5 popular films typecast her and effectively ended her film career almost as soon as it started. Following the first Angélique film in 1964 Michèle Mercier starred in four sequels that includes Merveilleuse Angélique in 1965, Angélique et le Roy in 1966, Indomptable Angélique in 1967 and Angélique et le Sultan in 1968. All these films in the series were directed by French film director Bernard Borderie (1924-1978) and starred Michèle Mercier which bestowed upon the stories a consistent filmic world but also encased the beautiful star in a popular role that was virtually impossible to escape from.

Following the fifth and final film of the Angélique series in 1968 the French Italian beauty went on to make six more films before her career ended in 1972. Although Michèle Mercier had always appeared in a variety of film genres – the actress played dozens of other women besides Angélique – it was for this 17th century fictional character in five memorable films in 1960’s France that has affixed her into the pantheon of screen goddesses for which she receives enduring adoration today.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

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Fashionable and versatile award-winning Italian film actress Carolina Crescentini always seems to be working.

By John P. Walsh.

Carolina Crescentini is an Italian film and television actress who has appeared in more than 20 films since 2006. Born in Rome in 1980 (April 18) Carolina grew up in the elegant Monteverde Vecchio district. Not unlike Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Carolina wanted to become an actress from an early age and studied and worked diligently in the craft. Carolina attended Italian acting schools including the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – or, The Center for Experimental Cinematography. This Italian institution hosts a national film archives (Cineteca Nazionale) as well as one of Italy’s most prestigious film acting schools (Scuola Nazionale di Cinema). Soon after, Carolina began her acting career in television commercials and short films and music videos. The blonde beauty whose stage presence is similar to Kate Hudson and whose fashion savvy is like Chloë Sevigny got her first big break in films from another Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alumni –  Fausto Brizzi. It was in the sequel to Brizzi’s 2006 film Notte prima degli esami (The Night Before The Exams) which was a film phenomenon in Italy making around 15 million euros and winning a David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several other awards. In Brizzi’s 2007 hit Italian teen comedy Notte prima degli esami – Oggi (The Night Before The Exams – Today), Carolina Cresentini plays Azzurra, the love interest of the main character. Where Brizzi’s 2006 teen comedy is set in Rome in 1989, the 2007 sequel which featured many of the same actors in the same roleswith the addition, of course, of Carolina Crescentini— it is set in the summer 2006 as Italy played for the World Cup which they won that year. Brizzi’s sequel and Carolina’s first major film was an even bigger hit than the original. Even the French film industry made a version of Notte prima degli esami calling it Nos 18 ans and featuring French teenagers set in 1989.

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Carolina Crescentini in the pillow fight scene from Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film was the Italian actress’s breakout role.

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Italian actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Carolina Crescentini during filming of Notte Prima Degli Esami – Oggi. About six months later they starred again together in the film thriller Cemento armato.

This is the pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi where Nicolas Vaporidis as Luca and Carolina Cresecentini as Azzura first meet. A box office smash in Italy, it was Carolina Crescentini’s first major film and started her on the road to stardom. In Italian. (3.22 minutes).

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Carolina Crescentini at the Taormina (Sicily) Film Festival.

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Carolina Crescentini wears Italian and international contemporary fashion with elegance and flair.

Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis to make Cemento armato (Concrete Romance), a 2007 Italian neo-noir thriller directed by Marco Martani. Crescentini’s dramatic performance as Asia, a rape victim, earned her a Best Actress nomination at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) Awards. In 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress playing Benedetta, a fragile and spoiled rich beauty pursued by Silvio Muccino in Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love). The film became another smash hit in Italy that year.

This is the trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, the blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches this film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).

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Carolina Crescentini with hat.

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Carolina Crescentini’s performance in the Italian thriller Cemento armato (Concrete Romance) earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2008.

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Carolina Crescentini.

7. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI reads about tennis

Before becoming an actor, Carolina Crescentini thought she would be an art or film critic. Here she reads about tennis star Andre Agassi.

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Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features her beauty captivates but does not immediately overwhelm. Her attraction is fed by details: blue eyes surrounded by sensual dark circles that give an uneasy and lived-in air.

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Carolina Crescentini’s smile radiates kindness and beauty that might offer Botticelli a worthwhile subject.

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The graceful figure of Carolina Crescentini.

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Carolina Crescentini.

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Carolina Crescentini.

A scene from Carolina Crescentini’s third film Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love) in a role which led to her being nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her co-star is Silvio Muccino. (2:34 minutes).

Silvio Muccino presenta il suo "Parlami d'amore"

Carolina at the premiere of Tell me About Love (Parlami d’Amore).

Carolina made films where her roles were smaller but memorable such as playing Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg) a bio-pic about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. With a soundtrack by prolific Ennio Morricone, Carolina said her experience for this 2008 film on location in Russia was very beautiful.

The trailer is from The Demons of St. Petersburg which was one of Carolina Crescentini’s favorite films to work on. It is a biopic of Fyodor Dostoyevsky shot on location in Russia featuring an all-star international cast.  (1:41 minutes).

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Playing Anna in The Demons of Saint Petersburg (2008) which Carolina described as a beautiful film work experience.

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I demoni di San Pietroburgo – Carolina Crescentini, Miki Manojlovic, Anita Caprioli, Giuliano Montaldo (director)

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Carolina Crescentini at an event in Rome for The Demons of St. Petersburg.

In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was further recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer and the Giffoni Award at that venerable international children’s film festival. In 2011 Carolina won the people’s choice Ciak D’Oro award for Best Supporting Actress playing Corinna in the 2011 Italian comedy film Boris-Il Film based on the popular Italian TV series of the same name. 

From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):

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Carolina Crescentini, the star of Boris – Il Film.

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Carolina Crescentini as Corinna in Boris-Il Film.

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Carolina Crescentini dressed in Ferragamo for a press conference in Rome for Boris-Il Film. Part of the SS2011 collection it is elegantly detailed within a warm and refined tone. Carolina chose to combine a double-breasted jacket with brown high heel boots for a delightfully easy look.

Carolina Crescentini.

Carolina Crescentini in Ferragamo.

Carolina Crescentini

Italian film actress Carolina Crescentini in a still from Boris-Il Film.

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Carolina Crescentini next appeared in the 2010 film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story without  rhetoric, fully respectful of the feelings of the fallen family.

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At the 73rd Venice Film Festival in 2016.

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73rd Venice Film Festival.

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Carolina Crescentini plays Angelica in the 2009 Italian comedy film “Generazione 1000 euro” written and directed by Massimo Venier. The film received two Nastro d’Argento nominations for best comedy film and for best supporting actress.

Excerpt from a trailer for the 2009 Italian comedy film Oggi sposi (Just Married) directed by Luca Lucini. Carolina plays Glada in a movie about a reformed ladies’ man who has his heart set on marrying the daughter of the Indian ambassador. (56 seconds):

In the 2011 award-winning drama film The Entreprenuer (L’Industriale), Carolina worked again with director Giuliano Montaldo. It follows the story of a businessman facing extreme challenges to make his enterprises successful. A press event with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip featuring Carolina Crescentiti and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film (:31 minutes):

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Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.

In addition to regular work in many Italian TV series and movies including the series I bastardi di Pizzofalcone (2017) and movie Donne:Pucci (2016), Carolina Crescentini is a fashion icon in Italy wearing many designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international. Carolina has appeared on many magazine covers including rather famously, her shoot for Playboy in May 2010, Carolina said that in some shots she can’t recognize herself and chalking it up to “Photoshop.”

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Carolina Crescentini posing in Playboy in 2010.

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Glamorous Carolina.

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Carolina Crescentini in Playboy in 2010.

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Carolina Crescentini.

Carolina Crescentini 2017

F Magazine, Italy (8 February 2017)

Carolina Crescentini

Io Donna Magazine (24 January 2015)

Carolina Crescentini

Grazia Magazine, Italy (24 August 2016)

Tu Style Magazine [Italy] (9 May 2016)

Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)

CAROLINA CRESCENTINI

Playboy 2010.


Carolina’s most recent film work includes Tempo instabile con probabili schiarite (Partly Cloudy with Sunny spells), a 2015 Italian comedy about business partners who find oil on their land at the same time their furniture factory is going out of business. Carolina plays Elena, the wife of the lead. She also appeared in the discomfiting satiric film called Pecore in erba (The Sheep in the Meadow, a.k.a. Burning Love) written and directed by Alberto Caviglia which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2015. Also in 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time it was the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio) based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence – although by different authors six centuries apart.

Trailer for the witty and wry 2015 film Maraviglioso Boccaccio directed by veteran Italian film directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1:34 minutes)

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Marvelous Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini in a scene where she plays a wayward nun.

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Maraviglioso Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini plays a wayward nun who brings her lover into the cloister.

A humorous scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Also featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s hypocritical superior. (3.02 minutes):

Carolina Crescentini

Carolina Crescentini.

CAROLINA CRESCENTINI.

Carolina Crescentini in a leather jacket.

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Carolina Crescentini at Christmas.

KIKA PIERO TOSI CAROLINA CRESCENTINI ANNA FENDI TV

Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.

CAROLINA CRESCENTINI (20)

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Carolina Crescentini: red carpet.

Text ©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

To be continued….

..

St. Francis of Assisi and the Leper.

 

By John P. Walsh

Come la notte Francesco pregando nella selva incontro il lebbroso – How St. Francis praying one night meets a leper.

Starting at 38:15, the dramatic five-minute scene in the middle of Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 Italian film Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester or The Flowers of St. Francis) shows the medieval St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) seeking out and embracing a leper, the time-honored social outcast. Following their embrace—an encounter Francis up to this point in his life had assiduously avoided—the saint falls to the ground and, out of the depths of his being, in tears he utters: “My God. My Lord and my all!  O great God!”

While this event is dramatized in Rossellini’s film after Francis’s brotherhood is established, historically it occurred at the beginning of the Italian saint’s conversion.  In Francis’s own Testament written in 1225—one year before his death at 44 or 45 years old—the saint stated his embrace of the leper became the cause of his conversion. As Francis put it he “exercised mercy” to the leper not because he had been converted but that the leper— a common sight in medieval Europe and one that filled Francis with horror whenever he came upon one—became the astonishing means for his conversion.

In the thirteenth century in Europe, lepers by law had to live apart from the rest of society owing to their contagious infectious disease. Yet from at least the seventh century in Italy onward there was special orders of knights who took care of them. For a rich young man such as Francis seeking glory in military arms, he naturally despised this dastardly contagion and diligently avoided lepers. In the time period that Rossellini’s poignant film scene is set— it is either 1205 or 1206—there existed tens of thousands of church-run leper “hospitals” in Europe including one that was only a short walk outside Assisi’s town walls called San Salvatore delle Pareti.

Before this famous encounter of embracing the leper in the life of St. Francis, Francis, who was around 24 years old, had worked up to the crucial moment only gradually. After he had given up his several quests to be a soldier and returned to Assisi for good, he was welcomed back by his family and friends.  But for the same reasons that he abandoned his military career before it even started, these also prompted him to walk tentatively out of Assisi along the road to the leper hospital (whose site today is a farm field) to interact with its challenging pastoral activity of caring for these patients which stretched back 600 years to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604).  Sometimes it was the sickening smell peculiar to the leper hospital that would waft into Francis’s nostrils and make him flee. Other times, young Francis—who by now was living mostly as a hermit— after venturing to the leper hospital to give them a charitable gift vanished as bell-clanging patients appeared. He left his gift on the roadside because he did not desire to come into any closer quarters with these outcasts.

It took much more time, effort and prayers in solitude which Francis believed were eventually answered by God until he discovered his courage and confidence to embrace a leper as dramatized in Rossellini’s film.  Following a lifetime spent in heroic Franciscan mendicancy, the now world-famous Umbrian saint proclaimed that it was at this moment—as he conquered his fears and embraced the other in love no matter how apparently godforsaken—that his life in and for God truly started.

SOURCE: St Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Johannes Jørgensen (1912). Translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image books, 1955.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Italy’s “Ensemble Accordone” writes contemporary music for today’s listener inspired by 6th- and 16th-century musical forms.

Featured Image is Ensemble Accordone in 2010.

By John P. Walsh

The Italian early Baroque ensemble “Ensemble Accordone” was founded in 1984 by two musicologists—composer Guido Morini (born 1959) and tenor Marco Beasley (Italian-English, born 1957). In the last decade the duo in collaboration with other musical artists has recorded and released 10 albums. This 45-minute opera composed by Moroni called Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis (Revive the Life Force Spirit) appeared in 2009. While Accordone’s main focus is arranging and performing musical literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is one of two recent albums by the group conceived from original compositions by Morini.

In their interpretations Accordone often seeks collaboration with outside musical artists and this is the case for Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis, an opera in three parts. The first part is Effuderunt Aquas Nubila (Poured out of murky waters) arranged for soloists, chorus, organ and basso continuo concertante. The Helicon and Euterpe choirs as well as soloists Elisabetta de Mircovich and Claudia Caffagni are featured. Special guest musicians performing include Karen Peeters, Jaap Kruithof, Edwin Derde, and Guido Morini. The opera’s conductor is Geert Hendrix. While Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is imbued with the monophonic structure of sixth century Gregorian chant and Baroque polyphony from one thousand years later, Accordone consciously strives in this album to have early music be easier for today’s listener to enjoy. While today’s listener may not recognize or be able to identify this melodious music’s traditional backbone, the manifestation of a “rigorous lyricism” demonstrates Accordone’s creative confidence in bringing early music into relevant practice for the 21st century.

Vivifice Spiritus Vitae Vis is the first part of a trilogy of compositions dedicated to the Christian Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit. By design the new commission by the Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta (Lodi Cathedral in northern Italy) is to counter today’s materialism by configuring the great religious traditions in a new way through contemporary music and words. This opera’s libretto is a new Latin translation by Ettore Garioni comprised exclusively of verses from the Old Testament.

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.