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Friday, February 5, 2010

The Enlightened Traveler: Venice With Julie Christie in the Winter

As we grew up and still live in Southern California – where it can be 80º on Christmas day – our idea of a winter vacation has very little to do with Hawaii, the Caribbean, or (with the exception of Rio de Janeiro) anyplace tropical.

What is more romantic than Venice in the winter?

Au contraire! We enjoy donning our toasty Loro Piano cashmere scarves and sweaters to go shopping and museum hopping in Paris, London, or New York during November or December.

We also like taking long afternoon walks on the deserted, gray beaches of Cape Cod, then snuggling by the fireplace on a long January's night.

Thus, it does not at all seem odd to suggest that now is a wonderful time to visit Venice, Italy. Or so we read in the estimable Financial Times.

Who can resist Venice when described like this?
Even on the dullest days the lagoon has an opalescent glow, and there are times in late February when the light has an almost African brilliance and a clarity you don’t find at any other time of year, when the snow-covered Dolomite peaks 100 miles to the north appear in the shimmering sky over the lagoon.
Or like this:
Venice becomes a different place [in winter]. The sense of this ancient, decaying city as a slightly sinister labyrinth – unforgettably captured in the 1973 film "Don’t Look Now" – comes to the fore.
Okay! We're checking the flight schedules right now. You can read the FT's article in full right here.

As for Nicolas Roeg's memorable movie, a '70s favorite, what wouldn't we have done back then to be in Venice with the incandescent Julie Christie?

Or with Susan Anspach, radiant and unattainable in Paul Mazursky's still enjoyable Blume in Love, a good deal of which takes place in a fog shrouded Venice?

Or with the ambrosial Daniela Bianchi (at right) in the great second Bond film, From Russia With Love, which starts in Turkey and concludes in Venice (with nary a stop in the Soviet Union) as the evil Rosa Krebb (the original Frau Farbissener, Lotte Lenya) gets the drop on Bond, and holds him at gunpoint, but the gun is knocked away by Romanova (Bianchi)?

Klebb releases her poisoned toe-spike (ouch!), but Bond pins her to the wall with a dining chair. Romanova grabs the gun and shoots Klebb. Riding in a gondola, Bond throws the compromising film of him and Romanova into the water, and they sail away. Whew!

There are many more memorable movies set in Venice: Summertime (noteworthy because Katharine Hepburn falls into the Grand Canal) and A Little Romance (starring the adorable, unknown Diane Lane and the much less adorable Laurence Olivier), to name just two.

And speaking of Laurence Olivier, remember him as Neil Diamond's elderly cantor father in the misguided 1980 remake of The Jazz Singer? Diamond, in the role of Yussel Rabinovitch (we kid you not!), utters this memorable line of dialogue on the phone to Sir Laurence: "I can't go to synagogue tonight, Pop. I have to cut a record." (Oy!)

All of which brings us to something called The Maori Merchant of Venice.

We discovered this unlikely gem when researching this post. It's a 2002 New Zealand film adaptation of Shakespeare's play in the Maori language, utilizing mostly Maori actors. The film recreates the costumes and settings of 16th century Venice.

Incredible as it seems, the picture got impressive reviews. Alas, it's not available here even on Netflix.

Fortunately, we'll aways have Venice in the winter.

For more winter trips, read our post on Paris at the holidays.

Black and white photo of Venice: Beetle

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