Film of the Week-Tea With Mussolini-27.05.21.

For my choice this week, I have enjoyed the rare privilege of watching three of our most famous British Dames together in one film being upstaged by Cher in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1999-Tea With Mussolini. On the original release it became one of the most popular films at RBC with multiple repeat screenings.

This is based on Zeffirelli’s own experiences as a young boy in Italy during the rise of Mussolini and the Fascists before and during WWII. Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Joan Plowright are members of a group of British ladies who indulge in artistic pursuits in Florence who have taken a young boy under their wing to compensate for having a disinterested widower father. Their idyllic lifestyle is rudely interrupted by the rise of Mussolini’s Fascists and the onset of war. Added to the mix is a wealthy American widow, played by Cher, initially despised but who proves to be a friend in their time of need.

Zeffirelli lavishes his expertise in recreating the life and times in this hugely enjoyable story while giving it a softer edge than we would expect today. But it is the joy of watching the three grand dames in their prime while Cher, decked out in glamorous costumes, is quite a revelation holding her own in such company. It is on the BBC I-Player and on Amazon Prime.

Bill Cunningham