Tracie B and I have been taking it easy these days, staying in, cooking at home, and just enjoying these first quiet days and nights of 2010 in the last month of our lives together before we get married. :-)
Last night, Tracie B made an excellent dinner of boneless chicken breasts sautéed and deglazed in white wine with mushrooms (fresh cremini and dried porcini), wilted and sautéed curly-leaf spinach (slightly bitter and a perfect complement to the glaze of the chicken) and a light rice pilaf, paired with a 2005 Sassella by Triacca.
Triacca is actually a Swiss winery, located just on the other side of the border in Valtellina. I’ve not tasted its higher-end La Gatta, which sees some time in new wood according to its website, but I like the Sassella, which is vinified in a light, fresh style. (By no means a natural wine, btw, as many would think, since it’s imported by Rosenthal, but a real and honest wine, nonetheless.)
After dinner, as we continued to sip the Sassella, we watched Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), in my view, one of his most misunderstood films and not his greatest, although certainly the most famous in the Anglophone world because of its cross-over success and Fellini’s break from neorealism with this work.
I hadn’t seen the movie in years and although I don’t think it’s one of Fellini’s masterworks (in fact, I think it’s a bit heavy-handed, too engagé, and facile in some moments), I do think it’s a wonderful movie that gorgeously captures a fundamental moment — in its beauty and its ugliness — in Italy’s revival and renewal after the Second World War. (La Dolce Vita is more interesting, in my view, for the hypertexts it spawned than the movie itself, but that’s another story for another time.)
I must have seen the movie a thousand times and I used to teach it when I was grad student at U.C.L.A., way back when. But last night I noticed something I’d never noticed before: in the first true speaking scene (there is some dialogue in the first sequence, when Marcello and Paparazzo ask the girls on the roof for their phone number but the first dialogue, in the conventional sense, takes place in the second sequence, the second “episode,” and the first evening scene), Marcello asks the waiter at the night club what wine he has served to a celebrity couple. “Soave,” answers the waiter. And then, one of the transvestites interrupts him (I believe it’s Dominot) and corrects him: they had a Valpolicella, he tells Marcello.
It’s fascinating (at least to me) to think that in Fellini’s view, celebrities on the Via Veneto in the 1950s would be drinking Soave and/or Valpolicella (wines from the Veneto) when today we wouldn’t associate these appellations with luxury and status. It’s also fascinating to me that the screenwriter doesn’t seem to mind that the one wine is white, the other red. It’s clear that the wines are intended to be a clue to the status of the celebrities and that these details are intended to add color to the world in which Marcello moves.
There’s a subtext here and here is where you need to know Italian history to understand what’s going on and why these wines are significant. (So much of this movie is tied to this particular moment in Italian history and in many ways, it is more of a historical document than it is a pseudo-Freudian or anti-religious movie, as so many American scholars would like you to believe.)
Keep in mind: we are in Rome in the late 1950s and the scars of war were still very fresh in the minds of the characters (let alone the writers and movie-makers).
What was the connection between Rome and Valpolicella (think Lake Garda) that would be immediately apparent to the viewer (bourgeois or proletarian)? (Howard and/or Strappo, thoughts please…)
I’m taking Tracie B to the movies tonight. Guess what we’re going to see? ;-)
Buona domenica a tutti!