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In ‘White Lotus’ beauty and truth are all mixed together


“L’Aventura” is not the only film referenced in “The White Lotus”, which is positively haunted by films and the fantasies they spawn. As Tanya embarks on her superficial version of an Italian film, Bert Di Grasso – a grandfather whose family’s trip to Sicily was turned upside down by the refusal of the women of the family to come – exalts the philosophy of “The Godfather “, in which he sees free men to do what they want. After her unfortunate Vitti cosplay leaves her alone and betrayed, Tanya reconnects with Quentin, who is part of a group of “upscale gays,” as she calls them, who have turned her into a tragic heroine. Quentin tells her about his own lost love, but it sounds like the plot of “Brokeback Mountain”, and he takes her to the opera to see “Madama Butterfly”, which, in this context, can’t help but recall ” M Butterfly”, and a very specific form of romantic deception. As the line blurs between stories and lies, the mood approaches “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. If the first season of “The White Lotus” was about the occasional destructiveness of wealth, this one seems to be about its willful delusion – and how easily people who escape reality can fall prey.

In Antonioni’s film, Vitti’s wealth and good looks allow her character to enter a world of glamour, but they also trap her in a lie, hiding a real world of rot and corruption. ‘L’Avventura’ means ‘adventure’ – ironic, as not much happens in the film, and its central mystery is never solved – but an ‘avventura’ is also a term for an illicit affair. , often entered out of boredom, for kicks. This is precisely how everyone in this season of “The White Lotus” gets into trouble. For the show and the film, “love” is a dance of deception and self-delusion, in which it’s hard to tell who the brand is.

The only character who still clings to purity – the only innocent left to corrupt – is Harper Spiller, played by Aubrey Plaza. And it is she who finds herself in Noto, recreating the scene of Monica Vitti in the square. Like Claudia, Harper drifted here by accident – by virtue, observes another character, of being pretty. The newly wealthy wife of a tech founder, she came on a luxury vacation at the invitation of her college roommate. Harper is suspicious of the whole business: get-rich-quick, old friends who suddenly materialize after getting rich, rich people who spend their lives disengaging from the world and drifting from one imaginary place to another. In Noto, she finds herself alone and surrounded by men, just like Vitti. Just like in the movie, the scene feels over the top and surreal – part paranoid fantasy, part dissociative experience, and even weirder now that it’s 2022, not 1960, and Aubrey Plaza doesn’t cut it so from another world and surprising (for Noto) a figure as the statuesque blonde Vitti did.

As we watch Harper drift through the crowd, what we are watching is the experience of being watched. Along with Tanya – who aims to emulate Vitti but is instead brutally compared, by a tactless hotel manager, to Peppa Pig – she offers a metaphor for how we can indulge in deception.

Antonioni began working during Italy’s neorealist movement, when films were made on location, involving non-actors, telling stories of the working class, poverty and despair. But it was “L’Avventura”, with its focus on the alienation of the wealthy, that made him internationally famous. I know this because I took a course in Italian-Neorealism during a first year abroad in Paris, and – which is not surprising, I suppose, for the kind of person who takes a course in neo-realism during a first year in Paris – I, too, preferred Antonioni’s trilogy about the disaffected rich to the stuff that had preceded it: children stealing bicycles, Anna Magnani worrying about unpaid bills, this kind of stuff. The fight is hard to watch; it is much nicer to have our moral judgments projected into a world of aestheticized pleasure and escapism.

nytimes Gt

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