Stealing Beauty
directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
(Fox Searchlight, 1996)

Stealing Beauty is the lustful tale of a 19-year-old who ventures to Tuscany for two reasons: to lose her virginity and discover the true identity of her father. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (Little Buddha, The Last Emperor) takes us back to his native country and into the lives of an Irish family who settled in Tuscany some 20 years ago.

Lucy Harmon, played by Liv Tyler (Empire Records, Lord of the Rings), discovers a journal after her mother, Sarah, commits suicide, in which she mentions Lucy's real father. Sarah, a model and poet, had visited friends in Italy 20 years prior to Lucy's birth. So Lucy slyly tracks down the men her mother was involved with, questioning where they were one hot August day in 1975.

"I have a secret ... deep within ... for years. For years I've had to hide. I've brought the clues and now I'm here to bring the truth outside." Lucy writes poetry in secret as the superimposed words slide across the screen in her own writing.

Irish-born Sinead Cusak (Passion of Mind, The Nephew) and Donal McCann (The Nephew) portray Diana and Ian, a happily married couple living comfortably in a villa. Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) makes his film debut as Christopher, Diana's eldest son from a previous marriage. Feisty jewelry designer Miranda played by Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) is Christopher's younger sister.

Jeremy Irons, who in real life is married to Cusak, gives a noteworthy performance as Alex Parish, an ailing novelist suffering from cancer. Parish, an old friend of the family, stays in the renovated barn and is charmed by the enchanting Lucy.

Stealing Beauty is one long summer house party that includes fine wine, music and uninhibited fun. The film looks at the tender angles of the human heart and how easily one can be deceived. This role hits close to home for Tyler, who at age 10 learned about her real father, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Bertolucci uses music of the day such as Portishead, Liz Phair and Mazzy Star, as well as old favorites Billy Holiday and Nina Simone. The music fits each scenes mood along with Bertolucci's exceptional attention to detail. The scenery is breathtaking with vineyards familiar to Tuscany's hilly terrain. Italian is spoken as much as English, which only enhances your movie-watching experience.

Each journey through life has its share of mysteries, and without them life would be dull and highly predictable. Bertolucci uses this sense of mystery in Stealing Beauty along with the sense that love comes when one least expects it.

[ by Lisa Comento ]
Rambles: 29 June 2002

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