Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley is set in the late 1950’s. Highsmith was a Texas-bred, American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations. The movie’s plot revolves around a New Yorker, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever who was a lavatory assistant, is sent to Europe to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy, named Dickie Greenleaf. When Mr. Ripley’s errand fails, he takes extreme, bizarre, and unique measures to make the jet set lifestyle’s privileges his own. The strange, eerie and atmospheric cinematography, set design, and costumes fit the story beautifully.
The movie was mainly filmed in Italy with landmarks in the cities of Rome and Venice used as a backdrop for the narrative. Released in 1999, one of its initial reviews by Andrew Sarris for The New York Observer writes,“On balance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is worth seeing more for its undeniably delightful journey than its final destination. Perhaps wall-to-wall amorality and triumphant evil leave too sour an aftertaste even for the most sophisticated anti-Hollywood palate”. Most critics, and more importantly, audiences agree that this film is an intelligent and suspenseful exploration of artistry, scenery, and ethics.
The backdrops and filming locations are described as “lusciously seductive”. Using a patchwork of European locales, the film recreates an Europe of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Mr. Ripley leaves from New York City to arrive in an Art Deco Palermo and then off to the the fictional Italian resort town of ‘Mongibello’. The director interprets this as the actual Ischia Ponte, Ischia, Italy. Most of the street scenes are filmed in the closely San Rocco, Corricella, Procida, Italy. For complete information on the meticulously crafted locales, go HERE.
The Bottega Veneta Suites at St. Regis designed by Tomas Maier, found HERE.
St. Regis Rome Designer Suite’s Living Room. Situated in Rome, the capital city of Italy and of the Lazio region.
Designer Suite Entrance to the St. Regis Rome, Detail, image found HERE.
One can recreate the lifestyle by surrounding oneself with plush fabrics, italian busts, marble countertops, art deco accents, colorful facades, gilded mirrors, woven persian rugs, atelier urns, ornate chandeliers, wicker cafe tables, European mannerist paintings from the 16th century. The key is lavish, exuberant, and ostentatious details! This bric-a-brac of items can be found throughout several scenes in the film, with a particular focus on mirrors (as an esoteric and philosophical challenge to Mr. Ripley…who is he?). Believe it or not, comfort isn’t exactly what these spendthrifts are about.
The term “Mod” is actually short for “Modernist” which was the term avant garde Jazz musicians used to describe their new creations in the 1950’s. The style, as we know it, was originated in London via working class, foppish, homosexuals. Many middle to upper class Jewish individuals joined the cause alongside London-based East Enders. The style of the “mod” subculture was derived from Italian fashions and things worn to beatnik coffee shops. The “mod” niche co-opted much of its symbolism from Jamaican Ska Colors, African American Jazz, bespoke Italian Suits, and anti establishment ideals. The British Mod style emerged from a desire among British youth to break away from the stiffness of “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” and their parents’, working class clothing. Sociologist Simon Frith calls “Mod” the “first sign of a youth movement”, youths would meet collectors of R&B and blues records, who introduced them to new types of African-American music, which the teens were attracted to for its rawness and authenticity, they also watched French and Italian art films and read Italian magazines to look for style ideas. The Mod color palette usually ecompasses the primary colors (red, yellow, blue). Technically speaking, British Mods were actually part of larger gangs, traveling via scooter, and often their message was a bit violent (if not exciting). The Mods frequented clubs such as the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, and the Flamingo and Marquee in Soho. Riffing on the symbolism of the “mod’s” color scheme and often times revolutionary mores Barnett Newman created Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue? in 1966.
Barnett Newman, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, 1966.
Whereas the “mod” subculture is short for the term “modernist” many “mod” painters used bold patterns, anti-establishment techniques, and youth culture to create “modernism”. Piet Mondrian was already using primary colors to challenge past “traditional art” motifs. He was also inspired by jazz, as noted in the title of his unfinished painting Victory Boogie Woogie (1942–44).
Marimekko at Crate and Barrel, NYC, 2012. The design shop had its origins in the 1950’s in Finland, but it’s most iconic prints hail from the 1960’s, greatly influenced by the “mod” aesthetic.
Clearly the “mod” boldness, colors, and youth culture are experiencing a bit of a revival and resurgence in Fashion Week’s 2012 Ready To Wear Lines both by Alice + Olivia and Kate Spade’s collaboration with fashion photographer Garance Doré.
So how does this all translate into Interior Design? Midcentury furniture with a modular, almost futurist curvature help. Also, wallpaper in large, bold, repetitive patterns – usually with an amorphous, floral shape. The two images below actually show a subdued color palette based in watercolors and pastels.
I believe in the primary color scheme! When in doubt, buy some Alexander Calder prints here. The colors will inspired you and help to explain when a pop of yellow, or a dash of red are needed. For furniture, shop at CB2. Their whole collection has a hint of modernism that favors pops of color and bright, cheery rooms. Bold, typographic prints based in BLACK fonts also go along with the Mod look. When in doubt, anything with a Vespa or Scooter (an icon of the Mods) helps, like a time machine, to land your room in 1960.