“A noi donne intellettuali piacciono questi Brando type, questi muscle boy”: Lady Eva Bolansky’s Chinese-inspired loungewear

As a passionate movie fan I go to the cinema as often as I can, but there are still hundreds of films I’d like to watch. This is impossible during the school year because I’m always busy with something else, but when summer starts I can watch even two films a day, and I can assure you it’s heaven for me. I’ve recently watched many movies [1], among which some old Italian films I’ve never seen before. Piccola posta (1955) by Steno is a little jewel: it’s a comedy and a satire which mocks stereotypes still present in our culture and society – the beautiful girl who wants to become a film star; the fallen aristocrat who takes advantages of old women to make money; the journalist who pretends to be a globetrotter to become famous.

Even if the male protagonist was Alberto Sordi, one of the most famous Italian actors, the absolute star of the film was Franca Valeri, whom I consider the best brilliant actress the Italian cinema has ever had. An aristocratic and snobbish flair and a sharp tongue are the main points of her character, the Polish countess Eva Bolansky, a platinum blonde journalist who writes a solitary heart column on a magazine. Her real name is Filomena Cangiullo, but she’s given herself an “exotic” identity to attract the audience [2].

I enjoyed the film very much, also thanks to the unique style of Lady Eva, often inspired to famous actresses (her style icon is Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina). She lives with her mother and they share a passion for Chinese-inspired loungewear, which immediately puts them apart for ordinary women.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h12m53s110This is a black and white movie, so it’s impossible to tell the actual colours of the protagonist’s outfits. Anyway, Lady Eva sports two beautiful “jackets” in the film, which she pairs with trousers slightly gathered at the ankles and nice mules with gold wedges. Thanks to the invaluable help of Olga Rani [3], I can give you some details about these garments.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h10m53s165The first piece is a Pien-Fu-style tunic-like top. The Pien Fu is a traditional costume in two pieces – a knee-length top and trousers or a knee length-skirt – used for ceremonies. The one seen on Lady Eva has embroidered bands on the wide sleeves.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h11m05s51The lower sides of the garment are embellished with spiral-shaped inserts. In case you are wondering what she was doing in this scene: she was taking care of her turtles, Tristano and Isotta!

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h13m35s22The tunic has a small Mandarin collar, some buttons on the front and an asymmetrical closure. The upper part of it is decorated with the same spiral-shaped inserts seen on the sides. In the screencap above we can get a glimpse of her trousers (with small buttons on the bottom cuffs) and her wedges. This is surely made of silk and I like thinking it’s a bright-coloured piece.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h15m16s7The second garment is my favourite: unfortunately it doesn’t have much screen time, but it’s really fantastic. It’s another tunic in Pien-Fu style, though different from the previous one. This is collarless and has a front closure with frogs. It’s made of printed silk with different patterns, as shown by the contrasting bands on the sleeves. I love the scene this screencap was taken from, because it’s quintessential Franca Valeri, an actress who has become famous on tv, on the radio and at the theatre for playing roles of witty women speaking on the phone (la Sora Cecioni, la Signorina Snob – my favourite – and Cesira la manicure).

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h14m57s55Lady Eva pairs her tunic to fitted trousers in this case, too. In the screencap above we can see her mother (Nanda Primavera) wearing a stunning robe-like garment.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h09m01s100Mammà (this how Lady Eva calls her mother) is a very nice character. She supports and helps her daughter’s work as she can: she’s a secretary and a typist and in general takes care of business. She’s not as pretentiously sophisticated as her daughter (she doesn’t use English expressions, for example) but is caring and loving. She doesn’t have much screen time, but she surely impresses the audience in the opening scene.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h09m08s159She welcomes a postman who’s delivering letters to Lady Eva. Her hair is styled in rollers, and she’s wearing a stunning robe. Olga said this seems to be inspired by another piece of Chinese clothing, the chang-pao, a one-piece garment extending to the heels with wrapping to the right side over the left and tied with a sash.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h09m31s119The sash she’s wearing around the waist is finished with a row of tassels. You can tell both Lady Eva and her mother love Chinese garments and objects from some details in her apartment – see the tapestry on the wall.

vlcsnap-2013-07-20-01h13m10s8Mammà is also wearing a pair of pendant earrings, which contrast with the richly embroidered robe. I love this garment so much! The embroidery features two traditional elements of Far East culture – chrysanthemums and wisteria. The chrysanthemum is one of the Four Gentlemen of China, along with the plum blossom, the orchid and bamboo, and it’s a symbol of nobility. On the other hand, wisteria symbolizes spring, youth, balance and calmness.

This is the extended trailer of the movie. Watch it even if you don’t understand Italian, just to see the characters in action. The quote the title of this post comes from can be found in the trailer, too – Lady Eva is commenting on a man she fancies (a vet living in the neighbourhood) and says: “Intellectual women like me like these Brando-type muscle boys”. Hilarious!

[1] Here you can read short reviews of the films I’m watching these days.

[2] The title of the movie was inspired to the lonely heart/bon-ton column of the same name which could often be found on Italian magazines. This column was sometimes curated by journalists with exotic pen names, like the Countess Clara Ràdjanny von Skèwitch, nom de plume of Irene Brin, whose column was published on La Settimana Incom, whose publisher produced Piccola Posta. I remember another Italian journalist who made people travel with imagination: Elena Melik was a Russian-born beauty editor who had a column on Confidenze, a women’s magazine my aunt used to read. I loved reading her beauty tips and accounts from her travels around the world.

[3] Olga is an amazing person. Born in Belarus, she’s travelled the world and is currently living in Nepal. If you love traditional costumes and jewellery, please follow her blog: it’s a mine of fascinating information.

11 comments

  1. Ogni volta scegli di analizzare film che mi piacciono, ma questa volta sono davvero incantata, anche per una ragione particolare: vivo in Cina, faccio un po’ (tanto) la snob cosmopolita, ho una passione per i musicisti rock barbuti, e ora ti sto scrivendo dall’ipad in un ostello di Hong Kong. Appena posso voglio assolutamente procurarmelo!

    1. Devi procurartelo, è davvero divertente!!!
      Non sapevo avessi una vita così avventurosa! Andare a Hong Kong è uno dei miei sogni nel cassetto🙂

      1. Ti dirò, a me Hong Kong è piaciuta moltissimo, però è un po’ troppo commerciale, queste metropoli asiatiche sono raramente centri sia culturali che economici… ma se mai dovessi capitare in Cina, sarò lieta di farti da guida🙂

  2. Questo film è una perla, come del resto tutti quelli interpretati da Franca Valeri. Hai mai visto Sotto il segno di Venere?” Commedia dolce-amara scritta da lei.

    Anch’io ho sempre letto i consigli di Elena Melik, negli anni ’90 teneva la rubrica beauty su Grazia. Adoravo il suo stile sofisticato anche quando parlava di banali creme anticellulite.

    1. No, ancora non l’ho visto, ma ce l’ho in lista.
      Elena Melik era bravissima in questo. Pensa che io qualche anno fa ho comprato l’Olio Indiano Vian ricordandomi di quanto ne aveva parlato lei nella sua rubrica su Confidenze.

    1. È uno dei miei preferiti “Sotto il segno di Venere”, l’unico film in cui Franca Valeri recita insieme a Sophia Loren. Anche qui cast d’eccezione. Ma com’è che all’epoca erano tutti così bravi?

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