Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck explore the Eternal City on a Vespa in “Roman Holiday.”
Whether La Befana, the Christmas witch, or good old Santa Claus is doing the shopping, wannabe Italians will swoon for any of these DVDs in their stocking. Our Top Ten “Discover Your Inner Italian” movies, in chronological order, are . . .
Roman Holiday (1953) Beguiling postwar Rome is the real star of William Wyler’s bittersweet masterpiece, although ingénue Audrey, in top gamine form, gives the Eternal City a run for star billing. She did receive the Oscar, after all.
Three Coins in a Fountain (1954) Three single American women in Rome: Each throws a coin into the Trevi to wish for the man of her dreams. As Sinatra crooned, “Which one will the fountain bless?”
Summertime (1955) Katharine Hepburn portrays a mature, lonely innocent in this poignant story of illicit love. Directed by David Lean with 1950s stalwart Rossano Brazzi as the married Venetian for whom Hepburn falls.
It Started in Naples (1960) Philadelphia lawyer Clark Gable discovers an orphaned nephew-whose aunt is Sophia Loren-when he visits Capri to settle the estate of his philandering brother. Gable instructing the kid on how to assemble an American hamburger is priceless. Before the final credits roll, Loren has Gable eating spaghetti out of her hand.
Come September (1961) Wealthy American industrialist Rock Hudson spends each September at his luxurious Portofino villa. But his compartmentalized life turns chaotic when longtime Italian girlfriend, the tempestuous Gina Lollobrigida, makes up her mind to get that band of gold.
A Little Romance (1979) Two adorable 13-year-olds, an American girl and a French boy, run away from Paris to Venice (abetted by adorable codger Laurence Olivier) to kiss under The Bridge of Sighs.
A Room with a View (1986) Each and every scene is perfection as British heroine Lucy Honeychurch, played by Helena Bonham Carter, blossoms in Tuscany. Daniel Day Lewis as Lucy’s priggish fiancé and Maggie Smith as Lucy’s “poor” cousin Charlotte head a stellar cast.
Only You (1994) Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. get top billing but it’s sidekick Bonnie Hunt who really “gets” the Italian ethos in this fun and frothy flick. With Tomei’s character running around the country searching for her soulmate, we’re treated to multiple gorgeous locales.
Stealing Beauty (1996) Italian auteur Bernardo Bertolucci creates a film about a lovely, sometimes awkward young woman, Liv Tyler, discovering her sexuality. If you don’t want to be a 19-year-old in Tuscany after watching this flick, your heart is harder than Carrara marble.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) After likely paying big bucks for the film rights to the New York Times best-selling book, writer/director Audrey Wells pens pretty much a new story. Who cares? We get to gaze at Cortona and Positano for nearly two hours. The American heroine Frances doesn’t win the Latin lover (she reigns with the first-runner-up American guy), but she does get a villa to-die-for!
S. Belgin says
Beyond the Clouds (1995 film)
Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
Okay, so my suggestion is not set in Italy, but I think it should get consideration in the honorable mention category. “Big Night” takes place in New Jersey, but it is a delicious tale brimming with Italian food and other influences from the old country.
I confess I adore “Only You,” even though it has a silly plot. Something about those Italian landscapes makes you truly believe in love at first sight. And Bonnie Hunt is indeed wonderful, as always.
And one more: Bread and Tulips (Pan e Tulipani) made in 2000 starring Lucia Maglietta. Similar to Under the Tuscan Sun, but much better..