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Tea With Mussolini
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JOIN A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME CAST FOR SOME CULTURE, EXCITEMENT AND TEA, WITH THIS CHARMING AND PICTURESQUE DRAMA ABOUT A GROUP OF ECCENTRIC WOMEN WHO WILL LET NOTHING GET BETWEEN THEM AND THEIR CIVILIZED LIFESTYLE, EVEN WORLD WAR II. SPECIAL FEATURES: BEHIND-THE-SCENES BOOKLET AND THEATRICAL TRAILER.
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
- Behind-the-scenes booklet
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Top customer reviews
The film is supposed to be semi-autobiographical on the director, Franco Zeffirelli, and his childhood, which takes place in Italy just before the start of WWII. All of the women are expatriates and choose to stay in Italy as war breaks out. And even though they get a promise from Mussolini that the war will not bother them or their lifestyle, the women find themselves rounded up and imprisoned in a dilapidated building.
Whether or not the film is factual is irrelevant because the movie is really about friendships and extended family. TEA WITH MUSSOLINI was made in 1999 and the transfer to DVD is good providing a clear picture and features both widescreen and standard on a double-sided DVD.
There are no specials on this DVD which is why I can only give 4-stars. But it's really a charming movie that will cheer you up.
I tend to be stingy with my star ratings for movies. I save the 4 and 5 star ratings for the best of the best.
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