Tea With Mussolini: Redux

[Screenshot]Plotwise and themewise I’m seeing some synchronicity here: age everyone down a couple decades, transfer the setting from Italy to southeast Asia, and we have something not unlike Paradise Road, and like Paradise Road this is based (how loosely, I don’t know) on a true story. But somehow this film worked a lot better. Maybe it’s the genre: the lighthearted farcical elements of the plot kept Tea With Mussolini from taking itself too dreadfully seriously, which made its dramatic and emotional moments seem more real. Maybe it’s the acting: the three grande dames of British cinema (a description both apt and truthful, since they are not only great ladies but in fact DBEs) carry the stage, with not inconsiderable support from the typecast vulgar American (Cher) and the practical and mannish archaeologist (Lily Tomlin). Anyways, most of the genius of this film—like so many good films—is its careful balance of earnest seriousness and farce. The entire situation described is farcical, from Italy’s position in the war to the ladies’ stubborn refusal to budge in the face of authority. But of course the situation’s deadly serious too, with war and Nazis and whatnot. The great black comedy novel was also set in World War II Italy (Catch-22); maybe the setting is the perfect blend of over-the-top absurdity and terrible doom. Add the visual spectacle of Florence and some extraordinary actresses and it’s very near perfect.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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