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Articles by: Nicole Campisano

  • Life & People

    Gina Lollobrigida and Monica Bellucci Protagonists in L.A.

    Gina Lollobrigida and Monica Bellucci, two of the most famous international Italian stars are being recognized for their talent, passion, and contributions to the film industry at the Filming on Italy festival. This 3-day event that celebrates Italian excellence was organized by Tiziana Rocca's Agnus Dei, and Valeria Rumori, Director of the Italian Institute of Culture Los Angeles, under the auspices of the Consulate General of Italy in Los Angeles and with the support of the Cinema Direction of MiBACT, the Italian Trade Agency Los Angeles, and ANICA. 

    Filming on Italy's mission is to promote Italy as a cinematic set. The event is hosted at The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles where they annually award Italian excellencies of cinema with the IIC Los Angeles Creativity Award.  

    Italian Icons

    As the General Director of Filming on Italy Tiziana Rocca explains, “We are delighted to celebrate and honor Monica Bellucci and Gina Lollobrigida’s careers, two truly international artists. Here in the US, Monica has worked with so many great directors and actors, playing several roles and we can say that she is one of the few Italian actresses capable to act in many languages” and “a personality like Gina Lollobrigida represents better than anyone else Italy’s culture and cinema. Her career illustrates how beauty and talent together are both creative and emotional.”

    Gina Lollobrigida embodies the history of Italian cinema and she was one of the first Italian actresses to achieve super star status in Hollywood.  Her acting career started in 1946, and by the 50s and through the 60s, she was a huge international star.  Some of her most memorable roles are as Esmeralda in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and as Lisa Helena Fellini in Come September for which she was awarded the Golden Globe Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite – Female.  Lollobrigida is also known for being a philanthropist.  She is a supporter of Italian American causes, and was even given the NIAF Lifetime achievement award at the National Italian American Foundation’s annual gala in 2008.

    Monica Bellucci started her career as a model, and later became a popular actress in Italy and France, and not too long after, she began to reach audiences at an international level. She is well known for her performances in The Matrix Reloaded as Persephone, and the Italian drama, Malèna, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Cinema Paradiso.  She also appeared in the Mel Gibson colossal, The Passion of the Christ, as Mary Magdalene. 

    A Celebration of Italy, its Stars, and its Films

    This year marks the second edition of the Filming on Italy event.  It will be featuring US premieres of Italian documentaries and films as well as awarding the two Italian stars.

    In regards to Monica Bellucci, on January 31st, Filming on Italy will be featuring the US premiere of the Serbian love story, On the Milky Road.  Bellucci stars in the film that was directed by Emir Kusturica.

    In addition, Gina Lollobrigida will be in attendance on February 1st as she is receiving the IIC Los Angeles Creativity Award from the Cultural Institute.  To pay tribute to Lollobrigida’s iconic work, there will be a day dedicated to her with the screening of some of her films, and also an event that will be moderated by Claudio Masenza, the Artistic Director of Filming on Italy.

    The Filming on Italy festival will be held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Los Angeles. For more info click here>>

  • Dining in & out

    Italy has a Chance at the Bocuse d’Or for the First Time

    The chef from Martina Franca, Apulia, is hoping to become Italy’s culinary hero. Ruggieri is closer than ever to the world-renowned Bocuse d’Or competition, a culinary contest that takes place in Lyon, France every two years.

    Training

    In preparation, Italy has created its own Accademia Bocuse d’Or Italia, so Ruggieri can dedicate all of his time and efforts to taking home the gold.  Italy has never qualified for the competition before because it has consistently lost against other European countries in the preliminary rounds.  In order for Italy to participate in the Lyon final, Ruggieri first has to prove himself at the European level in Turin in June before he can move on to the global contest in 2019. 

    In past years, the Bocuse d’Or did not take much precedence in the Italian culinary world, but this year it is being taken very seriously.  Ruggieri will be paid like a professional chef, so he can fully invest in the endeavor, and there will be both public and private sponsors. Working on his strategy, Ruggieri explains that "Italy deserves the Olympic podium. We've always made the mistake in attempting to replicate a French, high-sounding cuisine but we need to impose the Italian style, a blend of tradition, creativity and innovation."

    An American Victory

    Last year in 2017, America took first place beating out Norway and Iceland who came in second and third places respectively.  It was the US’s first win thanks to Chefs Mathew Peters and Harrison Turone

    The Bocuse d’Or is not well known to many Americans, but the US is taking the competition very seriously to earn another win.  Mimi Chen, a college student at the New York City College of Technology, or City Tech, will be assisting Head Chef Matthew Kirkley who worked for the 3-star Michelin restaurant COI in San Francisco for a shot to compete in Lyon.  In order to move on to the official Bocuse d’Or final, Chen and Kirkley will compete against 12 other US teams in Mexico City.  The top 5 will participate in the Bocuse d’Or.

    The Competition

    Named after French chef Paul Bocuse, the Bocuse d’Or is a world cooking contest, and more officially known as the most prestigious gastronomic culinary competition in the world.  The format of the event consists of cooking both a meat dish and fish dish in front of a live audience for a jury of elite international chefs. 

    Each team has 5 hours and 35 minutes to prepare their meals.  Not only does the food need to be impeccable, but the presentation is expected to be elaborate, innovative, and also elegant. As Italian chef Enrico Crippa puts it, “winning the competition is a matter of precision and rigor,” so any competitor has the chance to win in 2019.

  • Art & Culture

    Brooks Brothers Kicks Off Its 200th Anniversary in Florence

    Brooks Brothers had its first ever runway show to celebrate its 200th anniversary.  Even though Brooks Brothers was born in New York City, the celebration was held in Florence, Italy, in Palazzo Vecchio’s Salone dei Cinquecento.  CEO Claudio Del Vecchio, an Italian himself, exclaims that “this is a moment to celebrate two hundred years steeped in both tradition and innovation.”

    A Celebration of Fashion

    Paying tribute to the brand’s origins, the runway models walked to the Italian Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.”  There was a total of 51 looks for the guests to enjoy.  The collection consisted of mostly menswear with the exception of 8 looks that were presented by female models, though they all embodied a strong sense of masculinity as decided by Brooks Brothers’ creative director, Zac Posen.

    The History

    Brooks Brothers is best known for its men’s clothing and it is one of the oldest menswear companies in the US.  Founded in 1818 by Henry Sands Brooks, it was originally called H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. with the intention “to make and deal only in merchandise of the finest body, to sell it at a fair profit, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise.”

    When his four sons inherited H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. in 1850, Elisha, Daniel, Edward, and John renamed it to Brooks Brothers.  The brand introduced the ready-to-wear suit to its customers and it quickly became a hit.  

    Brooks Brothers has outfitted 40 of the 45 American Presidents, including Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

    Claudio Del Vecchio

    In 2001, Claudio Del Vecchio acquired Brooks Brothers from Marks & Spencer, the British retailer through his privately-owned company, Retail Brand Alliance, now called The Brooks Brothers Group.  Clearly, Del Vecchio is a very successful business man, but he had very humble beginnings. 

    He was born in Pieve Tesino where there were less than 1,000 people, and grew up in Milan.  He was very inspired by his father who showed him the importance of hard work and self-earned success. In his own words: “The greatest lesson my father taught me is: see the challenge, and make it an opportunity.”

    Leonardo Del Vecchio, his father, is the second richest man in Italy with a net worth of almost $19 billion.  He started the brand Luxottica which is now the world’s largest eyewear company.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Claudio Del Vecchio worked in the retail industry, and for 15 years, he was the head of operations for Luxottica in North America until 1997.  

    From Loyal Customer to CEO

    Italy did not have a Brooks Brothers, so when the future CEO came to New York for the first time, he became a loyal customer.  He admired the clothes, as well as the brand’s message.  In an interview with Brooks Brother’s magazine, he explains that this company “was known as an icon of American style” and he “wanted to be a part of that in some way,” so when Marks & Spencer put the company up for auction, Del Vecchio felt that he could revive the company and return its high standards that he felt had fallen.

    However, the auction fell through due to the tragic events of 9/11.  Eventually, Del Vecchio was able to buy it months later.  He admired the spirit of New York in the wake of a tragedy, and knew he would be able to be successful.

    Del Vecchio is very proud of the success his company has achieved, and its 200th year anniversary is very important to him.  According to Del Vecchio, this 200th anniversary "marks a historic milestone not only for Brooks Brothers but for the fashion industry as a whole."

  • Art & Culture

    Gianni Versace - An American Crime Story

    FX’s second season of American Crime Story will start this January chronicling the murder of Gianni Versace based on Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U. S. History.  Versace was murdered July 15, 1997 in Miami when he was 50 years old by the serial killer Andrew Cunanan played by Darren Criss. 

    Gianni Versace

    The Italian fashion designer was the founder of the international fashion house, Versace.  Born in Reggio Calabria, Gianni worked for his mother who was a dress maker, and eventually moved to Milan to work in fashion design when he was 26.

    Versace went on to create an empire and was one of the most notable fashion designers in the 80s and 90s.  The brand represented glamour and attracted countless celebrity clients.  Although Versace became synonymous with luxury and extravagance, the designer was known to be extremely humble and hardworking dedicating all of his time to his job and family.

    Uncovering the Mystery

    This series will explore what lead to Versace’s death through the mind of the murderer, Cunanan.  On the morning of his death, Gianni was standing in front of his Miami Beach mansion when he was shot in the back of the head. He was Cunanan’s fifth victim and today, there is still no clear reason why he was killed, although there are various theories.

    Versace was openly gay, as were most of Cunanan’s victims.  Many believe that homophobia played a big part in his murder.  It is unknown whether Versace had ever met Cunanan who was extremely jealous of others’ successes.  Orth, making sense of the killer’s motive, explains that "he was willing to kill for fame. He wanted to be everything Versace was, but he wasn't willing to work for it.”

    The purpose of American Crime Story is to understand why the murder took place, rather than to sensationalize a senseless killing.  The executive producer, Ryan Murphy, justifies that they are “trying to understand the psychology of someone who would be driven to do those deeds,” instead of taking “the killer of the week approach.”

    The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story will debut on FX at 10 pm ET on January 17.

  • Art & Culture

    Tredici Bacci comes to Brooklyn

    Tredici Bacci will be the headlining act at Bushwick’s Elsewhere (Zone One) on January 13th in Brooklyn.  The supporting act, Showtime Goma, will also be at Elsewhere for a night of eclectic and exciting musical performances.

    Simon Hanes leads the ensemble made up of 13 other musicians.  Hanes, a New England Conservatory graduate, is the composer, arranger, and guitarist of Tredici Bacci.  As a fan of 1960s and 70s soundtrack music, Simon embodies this genre to create a unique and personal sound for his ensemble. This distinctive sound has earned them recognition and praise from critics.  In 2016, Rolling Stone named Tredici Bacci as one of the “Top 10 New Artists You Need to Know.”

    Italian Influence

    One of Hanes’ biggest influences is Ennio Morricone, an Italian composer, orchestrator, conductor, and former trumpet player.  Morricone has composed countless scores for films and television shows internationally.  Hanes is inspired by Morricone’s Spaghetti Western scores, as well as the music featured in 1950s and 60s Italian film. Morricone’s influence on Simon can be heard on Tredici Bacci’s album Amore per Tutti

    Show Details

    Tickets can be bought in advance for $10, or $12 DOS (Date of Show).  The doors open at 7 pm at the Elsewhere (Zone One) in Bushwick. 

    For more information about the show and tickets, click here.

  • Art & Culture

    The Baths of Caracalla in 3D: “A Journey Back in Time”

    Calling it a “journey back in time,” Francesco Prosperetti, the director of Rome’s cultural heritage department, can hardly contain his excitement over the new 3D tours of Rome’s Baths of Caracalla.  As of December 20th, tourists can now choose to wear virtual reality goggles while touring the ancient ruins for an inside look of what the bath house looked like in the early third century AD.

    With accompanying audio commentary, visitors will be able wander around the ruins with a new perspective.  The virtual reality goggles give tourists the opportunity to see the magnificent columns, mosaic adorned walls, running water, as well as the famous Farnese Bull and Farnese Hercules statues that once stood during the peak of the Roman Empire

    More than a Bath House

    All that is left today is the outer complex of the bath house.  However, with the help of modern technology, visitors can experience what the Romans did.  Along with two baths, one hot and one cold, there was also a gymnasium, a Greek library, a Latin library, a space for sports competitions, as well as a facility for recreational activities.

    There were also tunnels beneath the structure.  Underground, slaves worked tirelessly to power the water that went up to the pools, and to manage the heating system via wheels.

    Scholarship and Technology

    In the sixth century, the Baths of Caracalla were deserted after the Visigoths looted it and destroyed Rome’s aqueducts.  Whatever remained was taken by popes to construct basilicas in Rome out of the marble columns. 

    The site was exhumed in the 1500s, and any of the ornamentation that was still left was sent throughout Italy as additions to existing collections.

    Although little was left of the Caracalla bath chambers, with 30 years of intense studying and research, the originality of the complex was able to be recreated.  The aesthetic that the virtual reality goggles provide is incredibly accurate and remains true to history.

  • Dining in & out

    Gualtiero Marchesi, Founder of Italian Modern Cuisine, Dies at 87

    Gualtiero Marchesi, the famed Milanese chef and restaurateur, died of cardiac arrest on December 26th. Marchesi’s passion for food and new techniques outlined his successful career as a chef and restaurant owner in Italy.

    Food and Family

    Born in Milan in 1930, Marchesi grew up in a family where food was important.  His parents ran the “L’Albergo del Mercato” hotel, as well as its restaurant where two of his relatives were also chefs.  Marchesi’s early exposure to cooking inspired his future career in the restaurant industry.  He admired the simplicity of traditional recipes, and how everyday ingredients could transform a dish.  This notion would later stimulate his desire for innovation and his constant experimentation in the kitchen.

    After finishing his education in hotel studies at the Ecole Hôteliere in Switzerland, Marchesi returned to Milan to work at his parents’ hotel and restaurant.  He followed their recipes to maintain tradition while also developing his avant-garde style that was inspired by classic Italian cooking.

    A Restaurant of his own

    After gaining more experience and working at prestigious restaurants throughout France, Gualtiero opened his first restaurant in via Bonvesin de la Riva in Milan.  The first year it was open, it received one Michelin star, but by 1978, it had two. Marchesi was praised by critics as an incredible chef, and was even called the best in the world by famed food critics Gault and Millau.  In 1985, Marchesi’s restaurant was given three stars by the Michelin Guide, which had never happened to an Italian chef before.

    A Chef’s Legacy

    Chef Marchesi won numerous awards starting from the inception of his first restaurant.  One of them includes the Ambrogino d’Oro prize which is the most significant in Milan.  He even received international admiration from France and was honored by their Minister of Culture.  Gualtiero continued to win awards and honors including this year when he was awarded the America Award by the Italy-USA Foundation.

    For his 80th birthday, the chef opened his own foundation to help children channel their creativity, whether it be through cooking, painting, or music.  He also opened cooking academies in Italy to train chefs.  It was Marchesi’s mission to inspire others to develop their own creative passions.  Gualtiero found his creativity through food and as he explains, “cooking is in itself a science, but it's the chef's job to turn it into an art.”

  • Art & Culture

    “Call me by your Name” Receives Global Praise

    Luca Guadagnino’s Call me by your Name, based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, takes place in Northern Italy in 1983.  Oliver, 24, played by Armie Hammer, is an American student who goes to Italy for the summer.  There he meets Elio, played by Timothée Chalamet, who is 17, and the son of Oliver’s professor.  The two young men fall in love in the idyllic Italian countryside and the bittersweet fairytale takes off. 

    Nominations

    Call me by your Name has received a lot of positive attention from critics as a refreshing, yet timeless love story. So far, it’s earned three Golden Globe nominations: Best Drama Motion Picture, Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture (Chalamet), and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Motion Picture (Hammer). It has also received eight Critic’s Choice Nominations including Best Director (Guadagnino), Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory), and Best Cinematography (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom).  Call me by your Name was also named as one of the top 10 films of 2017 by the National Board of Review.

    Controversy

    One of the most obvious controversies with the film is the age difference between the characters, Oliver and Elio.  Oliver is in his mid-twenties, while Elio has not even reached adulthood. A few have spoken out saying that their relationship is pedophilic, however, Elio’s intellectual maturity makes him wise beyond his years, and in Italy, their love affair is not considered illegal, as the legal age of consent is 14. Armie Hammer defends the love story to Hollywood Reporter explaining that the love affair between Oliver and Elio “isn't a normal situation: The younger guy goes after the older guy. The dynamic is not older-predator-versus-younger-boy."

    Another controversy is the downplayed sexuality in the film.  Many were surprised and vexed that a gay sex scene was not included in the film.  Some consider this to be homophobic and hypocritical.  These critics believe that this choice was made intentionally to cater to a heterosexual audience by sheltering them from gay intimacy.  Guadagnino, an openly gay man, stands by his film and his artistic choices and states, “the tone would’ve been very different from what I was looking for. I wanted the audience to completely rely on the emotional travel of these people and feel first love. I didn’t want the audience to find any difference or discrimination toward these characters.”

    Breaking Stereotypes

    Although some were displeased with specific aspects of the film, the film’s portrayal of a gay love story breaks boundaries. There is no AIDS, no violence, shame, or guilt. The characters do not become victims or face discrimination from others because of their affair.  Call me by your Name avoids these typical clichés, and can simply be called a romance.

  • The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Andrea Commodi
    Art & Culture

    Andrea Commodi's Obsession with Michelangelo Debuts in NYC

    An Obsession with Michelangelo, The Fall of the Rebel Angels exhibit is now open at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City.  The exhibit showcases the widely overlooked copyist Andrea Commodi’s Study of the Fall of the Rebel Angels, a 5.6 x 6 oil painting, which was borrowed from the Galleria Palatina at Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Along with the painting are four of Commodi’s sketches from the Uffizi’s Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe. The exhibit was curated by Elena Carrara.

    The Artist

    Andrea Commodi (1560-1638), an early Italian Baroque artist born in Florence, was a copyist and draftsman that was commissioned throughout Florence and Rome during his career. Although he was extremely innovative in his craft, he was also deeply inspired by Michelangelo.  Andrea Commodi had exclusive access to many of Michelangelo’s sketches and drawings since he was familiar with the Buonarotti family.  He was passionate about the famed artist’s work, so he copied and studied them religiously.

    The Obessession for the Divine Master

    Michelangelo’s influence is very apparent in Commodi’s work, and it is clear that Michelangelo’s fresco, The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, had a profound effect on Commodi and his work. The curator Elena Carrara explains that “he [Commodi] was commissioned by Pope Paul V (1550-1621) to decorate the chapel of his palace (today the Quirinal Palace) with a program to rival Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, Commodi had the unique opportunity to measure himself against the master,” although the project never came to fruition. 

    From the sketches on display at the exhibit, it is apparent that Commodi practiced the art of replicating the human body and its movement for his figures to master the effortless style of Michelangelo. His drawings reflect on the techniques he put to use in the painting.  Every position is very specific and intentional creating movement that is suspended in a single moment.  Commodi also made the unconventional choice to use only monochrome colors which adds to the morbidity and drama of the piece.

    The Biblical Subject

    The theme of fallen angels relates back to the Bible’s Book of Revelation where there is a war in heaven. The angels who side with the devil are defeated, banished from heaven, and consequently are thrown down to Earth. In Commodi’s work, these rebel angels are descending from heaven.  The anguish of defeat and fear remain on their faces as they experience the eternal fall.

    The exhibit will be on view until January, 11 2018, and will be open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm.  The exhibit will be closed on Dec. 25 - 26, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018. 

    For more information, please click here: >>

  • Art & Culture

    Scorsese-produced “A Ciambra” is Italy's Oscar Pick

    The unconventional choice to use a family of untrained actors has won Jonas Carpignano a chance at an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.  Italy, which has won the most foreign language Oscars, has decided on Carpignano’s A Ciambra as its candidate.  A Ciambra has already won the Europa Cinemas Label Award from the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight where it premiered.  The official announcement of Oscar nominees will be named January 23, 2018.

    A Harsh Reality

    Centering around a poor Romani family in Calabria, Carpignano tells a coming of age drama about a 14-year-old boy, Pio Amato.  Although the film is fiction, the Amato family that stars in A Ciambra does not differ greatly from the family that they portray in the film.  Everything from their home to the clothes on set are their own to demonstrate the actuality of the world in which they live.  The neorealism reflects on a genre from Italy’s past and portrays the hardships and difficulties of minority groups in Italy without any Hollywood glamorization of the truth.

    To achieve raw authenticity, Carpignano, a New York born Italian American director, lived in southern Italy with marginalized communities to fully embrace and understand the story that he wanted to tell.  With A Ciambra, Carpignano sheds light on all aspects of humanity, especially those that are often looked over and left out.

    A Winning Collaboration

    Martin Scorsese’s involvement in the film has also gained A Ciambra well deserved attention.  Scorsese funded the film in partnership with Emma Tillinger Koskoff’s Sikelia Productions, and RT Features as a continuous project to help emerging filmmakers.  Carpignano greatly appreciated Scorsese’s involvement in his film and told Variety that Scorsese’s “cinematic expertise during that process was invaluable” when creating a film that needs to capture chaos in a way that resonates with an audience.

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