Above: “The Fourth Estate” by Pellizza da Volpedo (1901).
Marx is not a four-letter word at our house.
Happy International Worker’s Day, everyone!
Tracie P really outdid herself yesterday night for our dinner, making a gorgeous summer farro salad with fresh and lightly blanched vegetables and fruits and hard-boiled egg. It’s a good thing she did because by the time dinner rolled around at our house, I was depressed.
After reading the dismal news about Italy, the economy, the fall of Western Civilization, and the riots and looting in London (one of my favorite cities on earth), I couldn’t help but think about the last market crash in 2008 and the days that followed the tragedy of the Twin Towers in 2001. Those were tough times for the wine (and restaurant) industry and I hope they are not returning in the wake of the current crisis.
But as Tracie P reminded me, no matter what happens, we’ll have each other and we’ll have Baby P when she arrives later this year. And for the first time in my life, as bleak as the world seems right now, my anxiety about the future is assuaged by Tracie P’s wonderful smile and her warm embrace — and a little girl growing inside her.
And as bad as things may look, we all found joy and solace in some of the simplest pleasure in life: a bright summer dish and a bright, fresh bottling of Garganega by Suavia.
We were also joined last night by Alfonso, who was in Austin on business. And it was great to be together, just the
three four of us…
After dinner, we settled into the living room and watched Pasolini’s Decameron on Netflix streaming. And I think all of us thanked our lucky stars for the small pleasures that life delivers…
Here’s one of the most beautiful sequences from the film… Buona visione…
In Italian, still life is called natura morta, literally, dead nature, in other words, inanimate nature.
After winning her battle with cancer, the couple decided to devote their lives to homesteading: they grow nearly all the produce that they consume and they slaughter and butcher all the meats that they consume (check out their site and educational program here).
All of the fruits in these photos were grown by them in their garden.
At a time when most of us urbanites place blind faith in the so-called “organic” choices at the specialized super markets, these folks — he a software designer, she an interior designer — have embraced the homesteading approach to self reliance (o that wonderful American ideal!) with a gusto and vibrancy that inspire me.
I brought over a bottle of 2009 Pinot Grigio Jesera by my friend Giampaolo Venica. Look at the wonderful ramato (copper) color of this true Pinot Grigio (a red grape, btw). We raised a glass of this delicious salty wine and remembered the grape growers in Collio (Friuli) whose vineyards were devastated over the weekend by a terrible hailstorm.
I also took a few shots in the garden — natura viva. I loved the red veined sorrel.
Thanks for reading!
Except for a tight connection in Paris, our trip has been seamless so far: we arrived this morning in Padua (Padova), checked into our hotel, and made a beeline for the legendary Bar dei Osei, a tiny hole-in-the-wall sandwich place in the Palazzo della Ragione.
I can’t even begin to express the thrill of tasting this first sip of Prosecco with Tracie P in Padua, where I spent so many years of my life studying and playing music! It was just a clean, bright commercial Prosecco but man was it sweet on her lips… like a first kiss…
Tramezzino tonno e uovo sodo (tuna and hard-boiled egg) and tramezzino con la verdura cruda (raw vegetables), the latter a specialty of the Bar dei Osei. Isn’t it wonderful how some things never change? Took me back literally 20+ years!
Glorious radicchio! Radicchio trevigiano, radicchio di Castelfranco, radicchietto…
The signore were out and about doing their Saturday morning food shopping at the many vendors underneath the Salone, as the Palazzo della Ragione is known. You can always tell where the best stuff is to be found: just look for the lines!
She hasn’t had a chance yet, but Tracie P is excited about her first taste of sfilacci di cavallo cured, shredded horse meat.
O how I love the Veneto… We also made it to see Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel, which I hadn’t seen since the restoration was completed. Even more stunning than when I first saw it all those years ago…
As if by some seaside romagnolo-infused magical realism, a press release found its way to my inbox this morning. It recounts how one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, Tonino Guerra (below), is to be “fêted” by the Writer’s Guild of America West: “Iconic Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra has been named the recipient of the WGAW’s 2011 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement, given to an international writer who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriter.”
Comrade Howard’s list of Guerra’s credits reads like my personal list of all-time favorite movies. IMHO the Antonioni tetralogy L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, and Red Desert is the greatest work of cinematic art ever achieved. Chapeau bas, WGAW!
That’s comrade Howard, above, fêting us at our wedding nearly one year ago today! (Just wait to see where we’ll be spending our anniversary, btw.)
Watch the whole trailer below… you won’t be disappointed… I promise… and I remember…
One of the greatest artists of the last and current centuries, Italian film director Mario Monicelli, father of the commedia all’italiana, took his own life last night. He was 95 and terminally ill.
Please read this obituary in The New York Times, where Michael Roston quotes the director:
Please also see this obituary in the ANSA feed, where actor Stefania Sandrelli interprets his suicide.
I studied and loved his films in graduate school and have quoted them often here on the blog. The scene below (with Totò, Marcello Mastroianni, and Vittorio Gassman) is my favorite from I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958).
My favorite gag is when Mastroianni asks Totò if the famous safe-cracker Fu Cimin was Chinese. No, says, Totò, he was from Venice. “Cimin” was his last name. “Fu” means he died, he says.
Comrade H brought the news to my attention over the weekend.
She contributed to some of the greatest movies of all times and she did so in at a time when few women worked as writers in the Italian film industry.
The number of classic films on which she collaborated are too many to list here but you know her work the way you remember your Sunday prayers: Bicycle Thieves, Miracle in Milan, Rome Open City, Big Deal on Madonna Street, The Leopard, and the list goes on and on, nearly every one of them a sine qua non of the twentieth century.
One film that you may not remember, but one of my all-time favorites, was her first film with Visconti, Bellissima, the story of an over zealous stage mother in Rome (played by Anna Magnani) who is driven out of desperate poverty to make her daughter a star. It’s a comic-tragedy that simultaneously makes us laugh and cry as we sit on the edge of our chairs rooting for the girl, knowing all the while that poverty has driven the mother to forget that true riches lie not in wealth but humanity. Watch this scene where Maddalena (Magnani) quarrels with her husband Spartaco (played by Walter Chiari). I’m not sure but I imagine that Cecchi wrote this sequence. One thing I know for certain: even if you don’t speak Italian, it will move you to tears…
Man, they don’t write ‘em like that anymore, do they, Comrade H?
Above: Over the weekend, Tracie P made cabbage leaves stuffed with shredded pork and rice and then braised in puréed tomato. Delicious…
The same way some of my favorite wine bloggers share my passion for music, like McDuff and Eric the Red, many of my blogging colleagues share my passion for cinema, like Lyle and Tom. (They tell me I know a little about cinema and Italian cinema in particular.)
Over the weekend, Tracie P and I finally went to see I am Love, the (relatively) new (to American audiences) movie by director Luca Guadagnino. We both loved it and I highly recommend it (and I thank Comrades A and H for nudging us to see it!).
Above: Summertime means PANZANELLA chez Parzenella… so yummy…
There are plenty of insightful reviews of the movie but I wanted to make one (I feel) important point about it. So many reviewers have made reference to Guadagnino’s homage to Visconti in this work (and there is a Viscontian influence here, no doubt). But there are many other cinéaste and cinephilic references here.
I’m not the first to note that Pasolini’s Teorema is a patent model for this work, where chef Antonio is a parallel to Terrence Stamp’s character in the former.
But I may be the first to point out that Antonioni’s influence is also immensely felt here: the shots of Milan and in particular industrial Milan are clear references to Antonioni’s tetraology, L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse, and The Red Desert. And even more significantly, the characters’s sense of alienation and the “substitution” of one relationship for another in the search for elusive happiness owe much to Antonioni’s thoughtfully two-dimensional world.
Above: Some southern girls knew how to make fried green tomatoes even before they went Hollywood! Gelatinous on the inside, crispy on the outside.
Most significantly, I Am Love is a film that is aware of being a film and being part of a great cinematic tradition: I am Cinema. The shots of industrial Milan and the textile factories, for example, evoked a genre of Italian nationalist documentary filmmaking that first emerged during fascism and reached its peak during the “economic miracle” of the 1960s. The use of
Giacomo Giulio da Milano’s font Neon in the credits and captions was a sort of epicinematic allusion that paid homage to the grand tradition of Italian design at its peak in the 1930s (Neon was forged in 1935 at the Fonderia Nebiolo in Turin). Those same “happy years” of fascism saw the Recchi family expand their influence, power, and wealth (remember the conversation between Edoardo and his colleague?).
Above: The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc by Clos Roche Blanche is probably going to be my white wine of the summer. At under $20 (available at The Austin Wine Merchant, where we got it), this delicious wine paired stunningly (and affordably) well with the pork medallions that Tracie P served with shredded cabbage and homemade pear chutney. Really and truly one of those sublime pairings.
The overarching theme of Gaudagnino’s film and story is one that belongs steadfastly to Italian cinema, especially when viewed in its inherently Marxisant paradigm: the alienation of a sense of humanity through the reification of the body.
And, here, I am confident that Gaudagnino would agree with me: Antonio the proletarian chef, whose craft brings him into contact with an otherwise elitist and esoteric group (after he “beats” Edoardo in the race), becomes a conduit that allows the characters to “return to nature” using a Leopardian and ultimately Rousseauan lexicon.
The food porn sequence (where Emma eats a shrimp, how phallic is that?) and the farm-to-table sex sequence (a symphony of cross pollination) represent the triumph of nature over materialism.
After all, when the chef at some chichi lower Manhattan restaurant regales her/his patrons with tales of the farmhouse where she/he has sourced her/his heirloom cultivars of elderflowers used to infuse her/his coulis, is it not an extravagant (in the etymological sense of the word) attempt to cheat materialism for the sake of a false Mother nature?
I hope that Emma will find what she’s looking for in Antonio, but somehow I don’t think she will…
I am love, I am cinema, and I am a fried green tomato. Thanks for reading…
And buona visione, as they say…
When our friend Howard isn’t writing screenplays or composing poems to recite at our wedding (glass of Bolly rosé in hand), you can often find him tasting and discussing wine at his (and my) favorite wine bar in LA, where he and I have spent many an eve discussing the epistemological implications in the nuanced semiosis of a bottle of Cascina Francia by Giacomo Conterno (1998 was the last one we opened together).
He’s even been known to wine blog now and then, like this wonderful post he did today for a film promotion (click on the images to read his wine and cinema pairings).
Chapeau bas, comrade Howard! I will raise a glass to you tonight as I quote my favorite passage from Gramsci!