Saturday, June 29, 2013

Italy's Brigitte Bardot?

I happened to stumble on a Vanity Fair slideshow of photographs of Claudia Cardinale, introduced as follows:
Once Upon a Time in Italy

The 1960s produced some of the most iconic actresses of modern film—figures that we still revere for their style and nonchalant beauty. Though lesser known in the States, Claudia Cardinale embodied all the wow factors of a 60s starlet: big hair, cat eyes, a seamless hourglass figure, and a raspy, unforgettable voice. This year marks the 50th anniversary of three of her most memorable movies: The Leopard, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, and The Pink Panther. To celebrate, we savor the moments of the Mediterranean beauty at her best.
On the Vanity Fair website the slideshow was tagged "Italy's Brigitte Bardot", and that analogy strikes me as perceptive.  Both of them, in their prime, projected a certain specific type of striking and entrancing beauty, with a deceptively 'natural' and spontaneous-seeming style, that made them genuinely iconic figures ... even though neither of them, truth be told, had that many major roles in that many great movies.

(Claudia Cardinale did appear in Fellini's "8½", but that was really a cameo role which used her image without asking her to do much acting.  And the fact that this writer has to reach for "The Pink Panther" to fill out her list of "memorable" movies says it all.)  When the Martian archeologists and cultural historians sift through the rubble of our civilization someday in the future, they will certainly conclude that Bardot had a much bigger impact, but they should pay a little attention to the Claudia Cardinale cult, too.

Anyway, it's worth looking at the photos.  People who were young during the 1960s might (or might not) find they induce nostalgia ... and people born after the 1960s can treat them as a bit of cultural history (and, perhaps, wonder what all the fuss was about).

—Jeff Weintraub