Silver Screen Scenes (4)

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.

Image found HERE.

Image found HERE.

Image found HERE.

Image found HERE.

At one point, Mr. Greenleaf stays at the ACTUAL St. Regis in Rome. European, Renaissance opulence at its finest.

Image found 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.

Shop by the Numbers: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 (frame) / 11 (art)

1 comment

East Meets West

Let’s talk chinoiserie. It is a French term, meaning “Chinese-esque”, and refers to a recurring aesthetic and design theme created by European artisans since the seventeenth century, which reflect Chinese influences. Chinese decorateive arts are heavily based in lacquer, asymmetry, ceramics, and fanciful vignettes. The earliest beginnings of Europe’s obsession with the “orient” began in the arts of the nations with active East India Companies (stock and trade in in cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium) – Holland, England, and Portugal. Western designers were inspired to imitate the technical precision of Chinese ceramics  – particularly in Holland, in the Dutch town of Delft wherein in artisans heavily copied the white-and-blue tea services of the Ming dynasty. Hence the term – Delftware. It is said by Daniel Franklin Wright, in his thesis Chinoiserie in the novels of Robert Hans van Gulik, that this design aesthetic (a creation of “Chinese” goods by European artisans) was less interested in closely emulating Chinese styles than in creating fashionable exotica for the domestic market.

Images from Top Left Clockwise: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

Edward Said, the famed sociologist, in his seminal book Orientalism, actually gives Chinoiserie a negative connotation wherein the fashion became a usurping of false Eastern ideals. European artisans were merely copying the visual style without understanding its spiritual or religious meaning and importance. In this way, the West was colonizing and patronizing the East.  Indeed, he postulates that the design first became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe because the West was viewed as a “fantasy”, “fiction” and place for the “other”. European artists often cosmetically stole forms from China and skewed the perspective using Western and Classical painting techniques – Chinese painting did not adhere to the laws of exact representation and perspective. Western artists used imaginary scenes to essentially create interior design that offered mental escapism. Indeed, I do not see Chinoiserie as either “negative” or “positive”, I believe it represents an homage to the beauty of certain eastern aesthetics. Modern day decor using these Eastern influences combines straight lines, bright neons, and nontraditional minimalist decor with the ornate details of Chinoiserie. I see this style as a beautiful combination of two worlds, coexisting together.

A bamboo chair painted a glossy cornflower blue, and a whimsically patterned wallpaper – in Delftware blue! Image found HERE.

Chinoiserie bedding meets ultra modern, neon, diagonal rugs. The gilded frame brings several eras and styles together! Image found HERE.

Dragons, Pagoda Lamp, Red Glossy Mirror! Image found HERE.

From the Domino Magazine Files, circa May, 2007. Cheery wallpaper (France meets China, look closely), 1st edition iPod, white wall clock decal.  Image found HERE.

Seaside Cottage meets China. Image found HERE.

Anthropologie’s Whisting Thorn Wallpaper.

Delftware Stencils found via The Royal Design Studio.

Baroque pastels meet Chinoiserie details. Image found HERE.

[Read more]