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Tea With Mussolini (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
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In filming this semi-autobiographical account of life in Italy during the dawn of World War II, director Franco Zeffirelli imbues Tea with Mussolini with the mixed blessings of fond reminiscence. It's a warmly inviting film, as impeccable as any Merchant-Ivory production, but like a hazy memory it's uncertain in its narrative intentions. And yet with an exceptional cast to compensate, the film's as engaging as it is inconsequential.
Zeffirelli's alter ego is Luca (Charlie Lucas in youth; Baird Wallace as a teenager), who is raised in Florence by Mary (Joan Plowright), the middle-aged secretary of his absentee father. Luca lives among a loose band of British and American women, nicknamed "Il Scorpioni" for their stinging wit in the shadows of Mussolini's thuggish dictatorship. Along with Mary there's Hester (Maggie Smith), a crusty ambassador's widow; Arabella (Judi Dench), a lively bohemian; lesbian archaeologist Georgie (Lily Tomlin); and Elsa (Cher), a flamboyant American who quietly finances Luca's education.
Il Scorpioni witness the rise of fascism and the dangers of resistance, weathering dictatorial custody and (in Elsa's case) falling prey to heartbreaking betrayal. But Tea with Mussolini carries little dramatic weight; you have to forgive its unfocused structure to appreciate its merits. Zeffirelli gently conveys the passage from pleasantry to wartime, and he's drawn uniformly fine performances from this seasoned cast. If the film is vaguely unsatisfying, it's only because it had the makings of greatness and settles instead for an ethereal quality of anecdotal enchantment. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
It has impeccable production values and the footage of tuscany alone is worth the price of ticket, but there is much more going on.
Zeffirelli's charcter is Luca - first played by Charlie Lucas in youth; and Baird Wallace when older. I liked the subtle reference to Romeo and Juliet that he was later to direct.
He is abandoned by his useless father who pays for an education and wants to forget about him. He is raised in Florence by Mary (Joan Plowright), the middle-aged secretary of his father but is basically shared among a band of British and American women, who adore Italian art.
A cast features Maggie Smith as the impossible British lady, an art enthusiast played by Judi Dench, a lesbian archaeologist played by Lily Tomlin, and an astonishing rich and flambouyant Elsa, played by Cher, in her best role to date.
Set against the rise of fascism, the incredible inhumanity of man, is balanced by a small group of women look after each other. Tea with Mussolini is a fine film that seems to float over the dark chasms it covers.
This is a story of a few lives intertwined by circumstance and World War II. Luca, an illegitimate child, unwanted by his father, is raised by the loving and patient Mary Wallace who is helped by a group of English ladies. Luca's father has a notion of making him "an English Gentlemen", a notion that soon changes according to the new political winds to become a wish of making him a "German businessman".... We meet the "Scorpions", a group of British ladies living in pre world war II Florence, headed by Maggie Smith who plays the widow of the British Ambassador - as she never fails to remind everyone. Scorpions is a nickname invented by Elsa, a rich American performer (Cher) who both laughs at and likes the group. Elsa becomes the benefactor of Luca and opens a trust for him, a favor he will return in the years to come.
I confess that the mixture of Italian charm with British ladies usually works for me and any film bringing us this excellent group of actors cannot be bad. However, "Tea with Mussolini" is not always credible and the characters are somewhat exaggerated. The war remains in the background, as something nor the ladies nor the viewers are able to fully grasp. The ladies would not leave Italy due to their love of the place and their naïve belief in Mussolini and an effort is made to show how their lives are affected.Read more ›
It is in this unstable and dangerous situation that we find young Luca. He is the illegitimate son of an Italian clothing merchant and a dress maker. When his mother dies, Luca put is in a school. His father is too concerned about his marriage and his social position to have much concern. His nominal guardian is the middle-aged Mary [Joan Plowright], an English employee of his father's. As Luca's situation continues to deteriorate, Mary finds herself more or less stuck with the child. She loves him, but she's a spinster and feels unable to cope with the task. She turns to some of her female British friends, and they all set out to raise him. When the war breaks out, this becomes an almost insurmountable problem when the ladies lose all rights and freedoms.
There are those who have found the plot to be both improbably and somewhat maudlin. I don't disagree entirely, but I find that Tea With Mussolini's assets far outweigh these issues.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is such a good movie...funny, poignant! I will put that with my "keepers"!Published 4 months ago by Sherry
Fabulous movie. Three British Dames plus Cher ! Story is nice and perhaps somewhat true.Published 4 months ago by Erica R.
I truly enjoyed this film, if you're a fan of these ladies you will too. Maggie Smith plays her usual snobbish oblivious self, touching and at the same time funny. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
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