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The Mediterranean Aestethics in Movies

8 films set against the background of a typical Mediterranean summer

The Mediterranean Aestethics in Movies 8 films set against the background of a typical Mediterranean summer

In 2007, the commercial spot for Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme fragrance made its first appearance on the Italian TV screens: set on a dinghy off Capri and starring the model David Gandy, who indulged in a passionate love scene with the model Marija Vujović (replaced in later versions first by Anna Jagodzinska, then by Bianca Balti). The commercial immediately became a cult. The secret was simple: the spot took inspiration out of the imaginary of the Mediterranean tradition, an aesthetic made of crystalline seas, cliffs, flowers and fresh fruit.

The world of fashion is not new to this imaginary. Mediterranean aesthetics has always been a staple of the fashion industry and cyclically returns into many brands' campaigns, as is confirmed by the success of Jacquemus and the latest campaigns by Chanel (Balade en Méditerranée) and Bottega Veneta. In the same way, cinema has not lost the opportunity to show the beauties of the Mediterranean: from Roberto Rossellini's Journey to Italy, in which an elegant Ingrid Bergman wandered among the ruins of Pompeii, to L'avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni, starring a splendid Monica Vitti off the coast of Sicily, since the 1950s the Mediterranean has been the backdrop to some of the most beautiful stories ever shot by a camera. nss magazine has selected 8 films set against the background of a typical Mediterranean summer.


A Bigger Splash, Luca Guadagnino (2015)

When it comes to Mediterranean aesthetics, there is no doubt that the real highlight of recent years is A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino. Premiered at the Venice Film Festival and unfairly passed over in silence for most of the Italian public, the film celebrates the typical Sicilian summer in an unconditional momentum of love. On vacation in a splendid villa in Pantelleria, the protagonists (Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts) have everything they need to have fun: beauty, money and boredom. Between a picturesque village sagra, a meal of fish in the hinterland and a snake that sneaks into the garden, at a certain point one of them gets even killed. Still, the plot is completely irrelevant.


La Piscine, Jacques Deray (1969)

Speaking of irrelevant plots and beautiful, rich and bored protagonists, the progenitor of this genre (if you can call it like that) is La Piscine by Jacques Deray, the film that actually inspired Guadagnino to make A Bigger Splash. In this case, however, the protagonists are Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and Maurice Ronet: a cast reduced to the bone, but perfect to pay homage to that typical feeling of melancholy and boredom that fits in well in the summer afternoons on the Mediterranean. In the background, the sea of the French Riviera; the images of Alain Delon lying by the pool have entered so much into the collective imagination that almost forty years later they have become protagonists of the spot for Eau Savage by Dior.


Mediterraneo, Gabriele Salvatores (1991)

In times like these, escape is the only way to keep alive and continue to dream. This is the phrase that introduces Mediterraneo by Gabriele Salvatores, a true gem of Italian cinema, a film that should be shown in high-schools. Awarded with the Oscar® for Best Foreign Film in 1992, Mediterraneo is simultaneously a hilarious comedy and a political and generational reflection that does not save anyone from its satire. The film was shot on the Greek island of Castelrosso. The penalty scene on the beach is unforgettable. Fortunately, the closing shot ("Dedicated to everyone who is running away") remembers that not everything is as fun as it seems.

Available on Prime Video.


Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard (1963)

One of the most important films in the history of cinema: Le Mépris by Jean-Luc Godard, an erotic drama set among the suggestive spaces of a modern villa perched on a cliff of Capri. The installment became so iconic that it was chosen, in 2016, as the poster for the 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Despite Michel Piccoli's performance, the real star of the film is Brigitte Bardot, whose nude scenes cost the film several controversies and censorships. During the shooting, the French director Jacques Rozier even shot two documentaries to testify the hysteria of the Neapolitans and the Italian paparazzi towards the actress. After all, La dolce vita was that, too.


Mamma Mia!, Phyllida Lloyd (2008)

Meryl Streep, ABBA's music and any Greek island. All this is Mamma Mia!, the musical that has grossed the most in the history of cinema (over half a billion) as well as the best-selling DVD ever in Britain. In 2018 it has been also released the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, but the first instalment is inimitable. Most of the film was shot on the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, while the church where Amanda Seyfried's wedding is planned really exists: it is the church of Agios Ioannis sto Kastri, near the village of Glostra, in the north of Skopelose, which actually rises on top of a rock in the middle of the sea and which can be reached by a staircase of 105 steps to the top. 

Available on Prime Video.


Mine vaganti, Ferzan Özpetek (2010)

Perhaps one of the most successful films by Ferzan Özpetek, the Turkish-born director who has become one of the most important authors of contemporary Italian cinema. This time, Puglia is the backdrop to its homoerotic history: the blue sea, yes, but also the countryside, the provincialism of a small town in the South of Italy and an ancient family tradition, shaped in the form of a typical regional pasta industry. Riccardo Scamarcio shines in one of his best roles, supported by a cast of Italian actors among the most successful that have ever been assembled. The soundtrack is worth some words, composed by Pasquale Catalano: from Pensiero stupendo by Patty Pravo to 50mila by Nina Zilli, passing by Sorry, I'm a Lady by Baccara and the incredible Una notte a Napoli by Pink Martini.


Les Estivants, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (2018)

About Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and her cinema, one could write a thesis. Not surprisingly, when he won the David di Donatello, she thanked Franco Basaglia for having "radically changed the approach of mental illness in Italy". In her fourth test as a director, the actress tells of the end of the relationship with Louis Garrel (Riccardo Scamarcio), as well as the relationship with her sister Carla Bruni (Valeria Golino) and her mother Marisa Borini, who plays herself. To do this, she opens the doors of her childhood on the French Riviera: the villa used for filming is that of Villa d'Hyères a le Pradet, chosen to represent the summer family residence of Cap Nègre, not far from Saint Tropez. The film is interesting (thanks to an unexpected karaoke scene), but while you watch you can not help but imagine Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Carla Bruni and the former President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy, in the boredom of a summer evening, sitting under the curtains of the porch and with a glass of Cognac in hand. And ask yourself: what could they ever have talked about?


Murder Mystery, Kyle Newacheck (2019)

To close with a smile, on Netflix, there is also the latest, hilarious comedy starring Jennifer Aniston, before she returned to television and won a Screen Actor Guild Award for her performance in The Morning Show on Apple+. The former Rachel from Friends and Adam Sandler team up once again in a film shot between Milan, Santa Margherita Ligure and Lake Como. Adam Sandler even said that «kissing Jennifer Aniston was embarrassing», but nobody believes him. Some say that during the filming, Jennifer was a guest of George Clooney's villa, at the same time as her ex-husband Brad Pitt was in there. But basically they are just jet-set gossip. 

Available on Netflix.