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The Montesi Scandal: The Death of Wilma Montesi and the Birth of the Paparazzi in Fellini's Rome 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226668482
ISBN-10: 0226668487
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Editorial Reviews


“Literary [and not] easy to pigeonhole is <I>The Montesi Scandal<I>, Karen Pinkus’s captivating account<\#209>in quasi-screenplay form<\#209> of the moment in postwar Italy when politics, cinema and paparazzi photography coalesced into a single culture.”<\#209>Andy Gurndberg, <I>New York Times Book Review<I>, Photography “Books of the Year” feature, 2003
(Andy Gurndberg New York Times Book Review, Photography “Books of the Year” feature, 2003)

“[Pinkus] casts her fresh look at Wilma’s death in the form of an imaginary film treatment. . . . The format is excellent at conveying the hectic and hopeful mood of the time. . . . These grainy, static images are extraordinarily evocative of the particular mixture of glamour and seediness that drew so many writers and film-makers to Rome after the war. For the pictures alone, <I>The Montesi Scandal<I> is well worth buying.”
(Caroline Moorehead Spectator)

“When the body of Wilma Montesi<\#209>an ‘Anygirl,’ Karen Pinkus calls her<\#209>washed up on a beach outside Rome in 1953, the police ruled her death accidental, but the case soon took on a life of its own, exploding in the newspapers in a storm of rumors. Pinkus’s ingenious book (she is a professor at the University of California) tracks the case in screenplay format, including cast of characters, dialogue, and detailed notes on shots and settings. Gorgeously designed and illustrated, it seems to invent a new genre: the movie never meant to be made.”<\#209><I>The New Republic Online
(The New Republic Online)

“Savvy . . . <I>The Montesi Scandal<I> [is] a slim, illustrated volume which reconstructs the scandal in a format that’s part screenplay, part tabloid, and part film theory. Ms. Pinkus brings a Hollywood sensibility to the Montesi story. She hews to the scandal’s basic chronology, yet adds flourishes that make the press coverage and trial transcripts come alive. . . . It is actually hard to imagine a better format to situate the Montesi scandal in the context of the Italy of Fellini’s paparazzi and Pasolini’s soulless postwar apartment complexes, of back-room-dealing Christian Democrats, Fiat 600s, dance halls, and tabloid magazines. Ms. Pinkus hasn’t uncovered any new evidence, but she has masterfully made her medium her message: a collage that mirrors the scandal itself, where fragmented truths don’t cohere into a whole and tabloid images take on a life of their own, beyond the foggy reality of whatever happened. In doing so, Ms. Pinkus helps us understand that darkest of sunny countries, one that seems to reveal itself best in scandal.”<\#209>Rachel Donadio, <I>New York Sun
(Rachel Donadio New York Sun)

From the Inside Flap

Early on a windy morning in April 1953, the body of a young woman washed up on a beach outside of Rome. Her name was Wilma Montesi, and, as the papers reported, she had left her home in the city center a day earlier, alone. The police called her death an accidental drowning. But the public was not convinced. In the cafés around the Via Veneto, people began to speak-of the son of a powerful politician, lavish parties, movie stars, orgies, drugs.

How this news item of everyday life exploded into one of the greatest scandals of a modern democracy is the story Karen Pinkus tells in The Montesi Scandal. Wilma's death brought to the surface every simmering element of Italian culture: bitter aspiring actresses, corrupt politicians, nervous Jesuits in sunglasses, jaded princes. Italians of all types lined up to testify-in court or to journalists of varying legitimacy-about the death of the middle-class carpenter's daughter, in the process creating a media frenzy and the modern culture of celebrity. Witnesses sold their stories to the tabloids, only to retract them. They posed for pictures, pretending to shun the spotlight. And they in turn became celebrities in their own right.

Pinkus takes us through the alleys and entryways of Rome in the 1950s, linking Wilma's death to the beginnings of the dolce vita, now synonymous with modern Roman life. Pinkus follows the first paparazzi on their scooters as they shoot the protagonists and gives us an insider's view of the stories and trials that came to surround this lonely figure that washed up on the shores of Ostia. Full of the magnificent paparazzi photos of the protagonists in the drama and film stills from the era's landmark movies, The Montesi Scandal joins true crime with "high" culture in an original form, one true to both the period and the cinematic conception of life it created. More than a meditation of the intricate ties among movies, paparazzo photography, and Italian culture, The Montesi Scandal narrates Wilma's story and its characters as the notes for an unrealized film, but one that, as the reader discovers, seems impossible to produce.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226668487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226668482
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,648,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found this book fascinating and recommend it highly to anyone interested in Fellini's "Roma" of the 1950s, in the cocktail generation, or in how a minor news item gets taken up by the popular press and expanded into an enormous scandal. It's a book about what's true about so-called "true crime." Pinkus writes well, and uses the format of a film treatment (not a screenplay) to tell the story of a Rome fascinated with film, celebrities, and stardom--whose Post-war denizens think of their own lives in terms of the movies they go to see. There are some great photographs in this book, and it is in part about the birth of the paparazzi, which occurred in relation to this murder case. Features a great cast of characters. Apparently dozens of filmmakers have, over the years, tried to figure out how to make a movie about this mystery. Maybe now Pinkus has provided just the right "map" for telling this great, complex story via celluloid.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Clever approach to telling the story of the Montesi scandal that rocked Italy almost 60 years ago. With extensive use of archival testimony from the trials, newspaper accounts and photographs, the author creates a "screenplay" that delves into the murder mystery of Wilma Montesi, and the public uproar that erupted in Italy when prominent citizens were implicated in her death and illicit activities. The author particularly focuses on the role the burgeoning "paparazzi" played as the accusations and trials were played out in the media in a way that has become all too familiar today.
Aside from some academic philosophizing on film theory, the book is very accessible and enjoyable to read. Sadly, the murder was never conclusively resolved, and the trials mostly ended up charging several "witnesses" with false or misleading testimony. Despite the lack of a final verdict, the book certainly dispels many theories and implies some likely culprits from the original roster of suspects. Thorough research and some great photographs.
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Format: Hardcover
Life is messy. Death is messier, particularly when it involves powerful politicians, sex, drugs and, in this case, a victim who is either a) a total innocent; or b) a drug-ridden sex toy. Pinkus has taken an Italian scandal from the 1950s and re-created it as a brand-new screenplay, drawing liberally on the approach taken by the great Italian filmmakers of the time, who themselves raided the story for their own movies.
A fascinating and original treatment of the quintessential tabloid scandal story.
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