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Tea With Mussolini


Year: 1999 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Tea With Mussolini is about a group of women who are living in Florence because of their appreciation of Italian art and architecture: the motherly Mary Wallace (Plowright), the haughty Lady Hester Ransom (Smith), and the flightly Arabella Delancey (Dench) and a globetrotting art collector, Elsa Morgenthal (Cher). With a little help from her friends, Mary is raising 7-year old Luca, an Italian boy whose mother has died and whose father will not officially recognise him because he was born out of wedlock.

The first part of the story deals with the women’s dignified life in 1935 when all is well and Europe is still a relatively peaceful place. The second part is set in 1940 after the outbreak of war and the attack on Pearl Harbour when the ladies have been imprisoned and have to deal with a life of hardship to which they are not accustomed, whilst Luca, having returned from Austria, joins the Italian resistance.

The film is a semi-autobiographical account of Zeffirelli’s childhood and this, along with the directors preference for using broad strokes in his movies, means that that Tea With Mussolini is probably the most sedate movie ever set in world war 2. However the array of acting talent on show is a moviegoers dream as is the lavish look of the film.

Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Joan Plowright have long been acknowledged as the dames of British acting and they all turn in performances well worthy of their stature. Cher also proves that 1999 has been a good year for her in both the movie and music industry. Their interaction on screen provides many memorable moments.

Some may find the films sentimentality a little too much and want a little more pace however any shortcomings in the story are more than made up for by the superb acting and Zefferelli has always been best when dealing with nostalgia.

James Hudson

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Autumn Term (35mm)