Wednesday, 3 July 2013

My Own Private Italy

Last Saturday I went to see a movie with my mom and very obviously some other seniors from the hood.  Not that she acknowledges the fact that she is a senior and not that we knew these other seniors per se, but here I was stuck in a tiny, but neat retro theatre where I am sure the majority of the audience had grandchildren in university.

The movie we went to see was Love is All You Need. A "romance" film in both English and Danish about a woman who is recovering from cancer whose husband leaves her for a younger woman. She then meets the curmudgeonly father of her daughter's fiancée on the way their children's wedding by crashing into his car at the airport. But of course - how else would they meet? During the course of their stay, they fall in love, in Italy, where the wedding is to take place.

Now, at first I thought I would go on about the plethora of movies at the moment that involve retirees or empty nesters searching for love and sex (ew). But based on a conversation with my mum after the movie, about how we decided to change the plan from buying a farmhouse outside of Belleville to Italy (no offense to Eastern Ontario), I realized many of the romance movies that I have seen, and liked, brandish the realization of love or self discovery in the settings of Italy or Greece or some other southern European paradise. On the list of the some cheesy, some not, romantic films and/or books that do this, include:

Enchanted April
Under the Tuscan Sun
Part of Love, Actually
Mamma Mia and
Room with A View

I realize this is a short list, but these are the ones I can speak to since I have seen them more than once (how embarrassing). But why is it that Enchanted April is one of my favourite films? If art imitates life, why is it that we need to go away to find love? or ourselves? or find ourselves so that we can love? Why is it that my sister's "happy place" is in Provence where she and her husband went to yes, you guessed it - a wedding. What if I can't get away, can I create my own private Italy?

One of the obvious joys of these films and books is the Wordsworthian contrast of the romantic setting to the stuffy, boxed-in, devoid of nature settings so beautifully displayed both in the visual and literary mediums. Symbolic of the mind and heart, it is only when the characters travel to the sun, the crumbling facades, the ocean-side, the orchards and the vineyards that we see them blossom as they lose themselves in the beauty of their surroundings.

One of my favourite parts in Room with a View is when they stop to picnic in the middle of nowhere Italian countryside, where it is wild and lovely and fresh. Lucy, the main character, a young woman under the care of her fussy cousin finds herself face to face with a young man named George who has been raised to view the world from what would have been at the time the equivalent to a "hippy" perspective: “It is fate that I am here,' George persisted, 'but you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy.”   

It is here that Lucy and George fall in love - but Lucy refuses to accept it at the time, having been courted by the rather stuffy Cecil who is waiting for her back in England. I think I have seen the movie about ten times. And I confess I have been to Italy about five times, albeit I don't remember much from the time I was less than one year old. I do however concur with the following quote:

One doesn't come to Italy for niceness...one comes for life. Buon giorno! Buon giorno!”  

In Enchanted April, four women who previously had no relationship to each other embark on their own to rent an Italian Villa: two unhappily married women, an elderly, old-fashioned woman and a young and beautiful but sad looking Lady (the capital is not a typo). The friendship they develop and the rediscovery of youth, the beauty of nature and love are again very Wordsworthian but also very inspiring:

“...She had heard of dried staffs, pieces of mere dead wood, suddenly putting forth fresh leaves, but only in legend. She was not in legend. She knew perfectly what was due to herself. Dignity demanded that she should have nothing to do with fresh leaves at her age; and yet there it was--the feeling that presently, that at any moment now, she might crop out all green.”  

A short synopsis of Under the Tuscan Sun: a middle-age divorced woman whose ex-husband cheated on her and is now having a baby with his mistress, decides to go on a tour in Italy and ends up buying a house there. Again, the exploration of both her surroundings, her struggle to bring the old house to life and her consequential bringing of herself to life are both genuine and beautiful to watch. There is a great quote from the book:

Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.”  

So where does that leave us, reader? And back to my original question - can I create the zest for life, the passion, the abandonment; can I see the beauty in nature, re-sprout youth and satisfy my cravings right here in Toronto?

I think I can if I follow an "if you build it, they will come" mentality. I have wine, olives, sundried tomatoes, a French stick and some Brie (ok that's not Italian, but France counts too). I have fresh flowers in every room.  I've started my sketches of a south of France scene. I've turned the air off and I've brought some of the stuff I was saving for the farmhouse out of the closet. I'm breathing. I'm wandering. I will try a new restaurant. I will picnic in the park. I will cook a simple but fabulous meal for my friends. I will experience passion. I will feel beauty. I will do one thing that is full of youthful abandonment. And I will still find some time to catch some Mediterranean films I haven't seen:

Journey to Italy (1954)
To Catch a Thief (1954)
Sex and Lucía (2001)
Bonjour tristesse (1958)

Ciao Bellos, Bellas! Salute Estate! (Salooteh Ehstateh...I think)
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