Antonio Marras’ catwalk was transformed into a set where he filmed a remake of a 1968 Hollywood film. During Milan Fashion Week on September 20, the Sardinian fashion designer set up on stage a film studio with different rooms where actors, actresses, workers, divas, a production secretary, costume designer, editing secretary, personal assistant, seamstress, director, producer, set- Coordinator, flap operator, sound technician, extras, models and aspiring actresses took turns in the spotlight. In a flash, audiences were catapulted to the end of cinema’s golden years, amid fleeting and sweeping kaftans, couture dresses, gowns, masculine-style tailored suits tailored at the waist, duster coats, sheath dresses and dramatic and divine evening gowns.
The entire show was put together to recreate the atmosphere of Joseph Losey’s film Boom!when published as translated into Italian The cliff of desires. Tennessee Williams adapted the screenplay from his own stage script. The milk train no longer stops here, for the film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The film shoot catapulted its Hollywood stars into the middle of the then untouched, wild land of Alghero in Sardinia.
Fashionable Milan – and a front row with Olivia Palermo and Larsen Thompson – thus experienced for 30 minutes the hustle and bustle of a film set of a major American production from the 1960s, one of the many films that the studios of the time decided to shoot in Italy. Marras, a Sardinian through and through but a citizen of the world, found his inspiration for the show when he recently came across Sergio Naitza’s documentary The summer of Joe, Liz and Richard, (L’estate di Joe, Liz e Richard), which reconstructs the making of Boom!. The designer, who enlisted fashion icon Marisa Berenson for his runway presentation in the role of Elizabeth Taylor, spoke to THR about staging his highly acclaimed show.
Why did you choose this film in particular?
In 1967, Paramount Pictures decided to produce a film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. They had to shoot the whole thing on an island in the Mediterranean and chose Sardinia. I was six years old, but I remember everything. As if by magic, Hollywood lands near my home, on the edge of the sea, in the purest and most untouched land in the world. The location chosen was actually Alghero, where two incredible villas were built on the steep promontory of Capo Caccia. The first villa was knocked down by the wind and a new one had to be built immediately. How could you not be fascinated?
Was it a big shock for the locals?
Very. The funniest thing was the arrival of these two assistants, who at that time were the stars par excellence with their many demands, the difficulties of the crew and the extraordinary moods of Elizabeth Taylor. The Sardinian grapes were too large for them, so fresh grapes were imported from Rome every day. She didn’t like the food either and so a plane from London arrived every day to bring her everything she needed to eat. Liz had a problem with her hairstyle? They would bring in the famous hairdresser Alexandre de Paris. The clothes were made by a Roman tailor, Atelier Tiziano. It’s hard to imagine, but the man who designed them was Karl Lagerfeld. The film had a really difficult origin, but is full of anecdotes.
The locals of Alghero struggle with the jet set.
Imagine what it meant to Alghero in 1967 that these two crew members walked the city promenade and stopped at the lowest bars for another drink. And over time the other dramas, the film, the stars, the happenings, the local extras, the gossip, even kidnapping attempts. The star couple lived on a mega yacht, Kalizma, with dogs, children, chefs, captains and sailors in tow. Liz’s opulent Bulgari jewelry on display, the flow of alcohol, the fights between the two protagonists, the 186 meter high cliff at Capo Caccia and the stratospheric white villa with a view of the sea, which, moved by wind and waves, always crashes against the Rocks crashed below. The whole experience had taken on an aura of myth.
A film that, however, did not remain in the archive.
It was an international flop. It never went anywhere, even though it was translated into 15 languages. It grew out of a theater project that had exceptional actors but was a disaster. The film was released in 1967, in the middle of the revolution, in the middle of the protest, outside of time. Completely illogical for the time.
How did it come to you?
The film later became a film loved and revered by many, talked about in reviews and shown in arthouse theaters. And thanks to the documentary film by Sergio Naitza.
Did you even like the film?
It’s not a film that impresses you, it’s not exactly a masterpiece. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t a success. Everything is shot in this villa, in this time bubble in which she lives. It’s a pretty dramatic story because the main character is waiting for this guy, this angel of death, to make her sick. Liz has changed the script and wants Richard Burton instead of a little boy. More than the film, I was really fascinated by the creation of the project.
What was the result of this inspiration?
I told you where the genesis of my imagination began. What is my Hollywood ideal? I thought of the diva, the star, the assistant, the producer, the cameraman, the man with the clapperboard. I translated this world into clothes that have a lightness, a fluidity, a softness that is given by the fabrics and the volume, and in contrast are really super couture constructions, super tailored constructions that completely change the silhouette .
Her catwalk became a film set.
We reconstructed the rooms of the villa with the different sets: the bedroom, the dining room, the car, the objects. There were really two moments of real cinema with many machinists, clapboard operators, microphone operators, producers, directors and an extraordinary international star like Marisa Berenson who made herself available for this game.
They had Marisa Berenson take on the role of Liz Taylor.
I thought there had to be a Diva, a real Diva with a capital D that wasn’t made up or improvised. A diva who could interpret a well Hollywood Babylon-like world where everything is possible, where a wish is a command, where the unimaginable becomes commonplace. Just think about it, write it and shoot it. Marisa Berenson surveys, wanders, floats. Charm, talent, interpretation, a diva between art and life. She played the role beautifully. I transformed her, who in reality is always a very calm, collected, sweet, wonderful woman, into a really naughty slut for the show.
Did music also play a key role in recreating the spirit of those years?
I chose music that was reminiscent of the films of the time. It’s all soundtracks.
What is your relationship with cinema?
I love cinema, not its creation, but what you see on the big screen, with the opening of the curtain and the velvet chair. Cinema is the perfect way to travel and isolate yourself from everything else. Audrey Hepburn used to say, “Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.” I say it too: “Everything I learned, I learned from the movies.”
Have you often been inspired by films for your fashion?
I use fashion to tell stories, which I learned from going to the cinema. Cinema is an inexhaustible source of stories, dreams, moods, characters, costumes, sets, stories about extraordinary existences or extraordinary normality. Cinema is an indispensable companion in life. For me, even more so because of the work I’ve done. I am a cinema omnivore, having spent my youth in Alghero, always watching and reviewing the films that are still part of my life. The characters are family, comparable to relatives, their stories are my stories, I have also experienced their stories. What I am is also the result of what I saw in the cinema. Intimate and loud, sharing and becoming an internal moment like no other form of entertainment can. When the lights go down and the music begins with the opening credits, it’s like we’re boarding a spaceship that’s taking you somewhere else and nothing matters anymore.