Zeffirelli & Rossellini: Day Tripping to Italy

Jul 26, 2015

0179-031Stunning locations, a cast of icons, a smidgen of history-lite, and a large dose of Italian director Franco Zeffirelli.

On July 31st, Distant Lands hosts the viewing of Tea with Mussolini, starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin, Joan Plowright, and Cher as part of the annual Old Pasadena Film Festival.

Tea with Mussolini is a comedic drama about Brits and Yankees on an indefinite visit to Italy who through circumstances end up raising a boy named Luca during World War II.

It’s supposed to be a true story and is based on Zeffirelli’s autobiography, though as Roger Ebert wrote in his critique in 1999, “How accurate Tea with Mussolini is, I cannot say, but it is based on the autobiography…so we can be sure it is true to what he remembers, or wants to remember.”




Ebert calles the grande dames “a gaggle of eccentric ladies of more than a certain age” and who are called ‘Scorpioni,’ a nickname because of “their stinging wit.”

Ebert ultimately feels that Luca/Zeffirelli is an observer more than an integral part of the story, but states that the ladies’ performances “supply quite enough entertainment all their own.”

Tea with Mussolini
Friday, July 31st, 8 p.m.
Distant Lands, 20 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena
Free event
For more details, visit






Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini

Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini


Much maligned and ridiculed, then quickly acclaimed as a masterwork, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy screens at the Norton Simon Museum on July 31st.

The Guardian describes the storyline as “a bitterly acute account of the death throes of bourgeois marriage in general and (Rossellini’s) marriage to Ingrid Bergman in particular.”

The synopsis on states that Journey to Italy is “more than just the anatomy of a relationship, Rossellini’s masterpiece is a heartrending work of emotion and spirituality.”

The film is now regarded as groundbreaking, allocating neo-realism to the past and “anticipating” the modernistic films to come. Actually, François Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim) “proclaimed it to be the first modern film.”

Journey to Italy stars Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders and was released in 1954.




Journey to Italy
Wednesday, July 29th, 2-3:45 p.m.
Friday, July 31st, 5:30-7:17 p.m.
Norton Simon, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
Free with admission, no reservations needed
For more info, visit






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