by Vittoria Scarpa
- Following her documentary on Chiara Ferragni, Elisa Amoruso continues her reflection on the cult of appearances in this new, non-fiction work
If, in Luchino Visconti’s Bellissima, Anna Magnani dreamed of a career in the world of showbusiness for her young daughter, Elisa Amorusos’ Bellissime sees this desire multiplied by three if not four. The Roman director, whom we saw last month in Venice with her documentary on the fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni which went on to become a box office sensation, is continuing her reflection on the cult of appearances with this new work of hers (the idea for which actually took seed before that of Chiara Ferragni - Unposted [+see also:
interview: Elisa Amoruso
film profile]), which was presented in the Alice nella Città section of the 14th Rome Film Fest. The film focuses on three Genoese sisters – Giovanna, Francesca and Valentina – who have been catapulted from an early age into the world of photo shoots, film sets and catwalks under the guidance of Cristina, their fiercely ambitious mum who, now, at nigh-on 60 years of age, longs for her own place in the limelight, whilst also looking to revive her three daughters’ ambitions.
Based upon the investigative book of the same name published by Fandango Libri and penned by Flavia Piccinni, who also puts her name to the film’s screenplay alongside Amoruso and Antonella Gaeta, Bellissime flits between the past and the present of these girls, who are now around twenty years old and whom we also see at 8, 6 and almost 4 years old respectively, in old films shot at the beginning of the new millennium, when the eldest daughter, Giovanna, was the highest paid baby model in Italy and the face of Barbie for Mattel. The younger sisters never achieved the same level of fame as Giovanna but, nonetheless, they regularly trod children’s fashion catwalks, all sharing the same bright blond hair and flashing their sweet smiles. That is, until they measured 1m 30.
While Piccinni’s book focuses on the use of children in the fashion world, Amoruso’s documentary looks at what happens afterwards, when child models go beyond the canonical height and can no longer model on junior catwalks, and the relationship between a mother and her daughters. What actually stands out here is the mother herself, Cristina, who, after spending three quarters of her life raising her daughters and chauffeuring them around to countless auditions, now, “as an alternative to Bromazepam”, throws herself into the world of pole dancing, sexy calendars and beauty contests. We see all four of them flitting between castings and various events, posting photos on Instagram and rehearsing scripts. “The little girl has arrived” exclaims one of the young women when their mother cannonballs into the sea. Forceful and showy, the 58 year old has no issue revealing her weaknesses and the violence she suffered as a child, and, somewhere among the camera flashes and bright lights, we witness an argument at home in the family kitchen which sees a few home truths come to light, notably with regard to the girls’ father, whom we never see in the documentary and whose voice we only hear in old family films.
Today, Giovanna is an influencer on social media and Valentina dreams of becoming an actress, while we hear Francesca stating quite frankly that she doesn’t have the “physique to play the role” of a model (she’s not tall enough...ironically) during an audition that’s as cutting as it is cruel. Illusions, the fleeting nature of fame, narcissism and the passing of time are the key ingredients of this documentary; a work which we might have expected to dig a little deeper in terms of the motives of these “bellissime” and their current role models, so as to better understand their identity. But, ultimately, the film’s exploration remains somewhat superficial, much like the world that it portrays.
Bellissime is produced by Domenico Procacci and Laura Paolucci on behalf of Fandango and by Annamaria Morelli for TimVision. The film will be released in Italian cinemas in mid-November, before dropping on the TimVision platform in mid-December. International sales are entrusted to Fandango.
(Translated from Italian)
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