London exhibitions. The Years of La Dolce Vita. The Birth of Celebrity Culture in Focus. Until 29 June 2014 at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square, London N1 2AN.
On view until the 29 June, The Years of La Dolce Vita is an exhibition which explores one of the most fertile periods in contemporary Italian cinema and the simultaneous explosion of celebrity culture. The eighty photographs on display capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’) enjoyed by Italian movie stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s.
The 1950s and ’60s were a golden era in Italian film when directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Federico Fellini produced some of their most famous movies, including the latter’s iconic La Dolce Vita (1960). Hollywood stars John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor, to name but a few, frequented the capital as American filmmakers were lured to Rome by the comparative inexpensiveness of its Cinecittà studios, and it was here that such epic productions as Ben-Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963) were shot. In the evenings, however, the focus of Rome’s movie culture – as well as the lenses of its paparazzi – shifted to the bars and restaurants lining the city’s exclusive Via Veneto and the popular haunts of glamorous celebrities such as Alain Delon, Kirk Douglas and Audrey Hepburn, transforming Rome’s streets into ‘an open-air film set’.
The exhibition juxtaposes images of this real-life dolce vita taken by Marcello Geppetti, one of its most skilful chroniclers, with behind-the-scenes shots from the set of the eponymous film by its cameraman, Arturo Zavattini. Together, these photographs vividly evoke an era of extraordinary glamour, creativity and decadence, yet also challenge us to consider our response to the media’s obsession with celebrity, the invasive nature of the images, and the ‘guilty pleasure’ we take in them.
Revealing the public, professional and private lives of some of the movie industry’s most celebrated actors and actresses, The Years of La Dolce Vita not only provides a candid and evocative snapshot of an era noted for its extraordinary vitality, but also presents a selection of images which, for better or worse, helped to change the face of photojournalism forever.