Political Film Review #637

HOUSE OF GUCCI REVEALS LIFE AMONG THE ULTRARICH

Directed by Ridley Scott, House of Gucci is a window into the rise and fall of the Gucci “dynasty,” based on the 2001 book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden. Guccio, the founder of the company, which began in 1921. He had two sons, Aldo (played by Al Pacino) and Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) grew up in Tuscany. Today, Aldo manages the business, Rodolfo is lost in his past as a famous actor. They had two sons: Maurizio (Adam Driver) was Aldo’s. The other son was Paolo (Jared Leto), whom his father Aldo despised for his mediocre designs. When the film begins, in Milan of 1978, the fathers live with their sons; no mothers exist. They live in what appear to be palaces at various locations throughout Italy and even the USA.

The focus is primarily on Maurizio, who is studying to be a lawyer and pretending not be from a rich family. One night he meets the daughter of a truckdriving business owner, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), at a dance bar, who makes such a successful pitch to his ego that he falls in love and marries over the objections of his father, who disowns him. He then lives with his spouse’s family, cleans trucks for a living, but soon his uncle Aldo brings him back into the company anyway, thanks to scheming by Patrizia, who steers her husband to become the indispensable CEO.

Meanwhile, the Gucci business is not doing well. Copies of Gucci bags are selling at bargain rates in the open market. Company revenue is not keeping up with personal and residential expenses, so tax fraud results, and Maurizio escapes arrest in Italy by motorbiking to his family’s estate in Switzerland. Paolo develops a clothing line and advertises inferior products with the Gucci name, further complicating the business. Patrizia is also nagging Maurizio on what to do, gradually destroying his respect for her.

Along comes a bullet-headed financier, Nemir Kirdar (Youssef Kerkour), who buys failing businesses and resells them when they are reorganized. He first acquires half of the shares from Aldo and Rodolfo, and then comes for the other half from Maurizio, who is unwilling to sell because he develops a new semi-salacious line with a Texan, Tom Ford (Reeve Carney), and expects the business to bounce back in time. Patrizia then seeks revenge because Maurizio has shut her out of his life while living with a much less attractive but milder woman, Paola Franchi (Camille Cottin).

Spoiler alert norms prevent disclosure of further details of the plot, but the ending is not a happy one until justice emerges in court, if then. The costumes, dialog, props, scenery, and movie superstars are the real attraction.

Meanwhile, the Gucci name lives on as a subsidiary of the French luxury group Kering. Just visit Gucci Waikīkī and see!  MH   

I WAS A SIMPLE MAN PORTRAYS HAWAIʽI AS A SIMPLE STATE

Featuring an elderly Japanese American on the North Shore of Oʽahu, Hawaiʽi, who confronts his imminent death with memories of the past is the task of I Was a Simple Man. Masao Matsuyoshi (played by Steven Iwamoto) recalls his life in nonchronological order while living alone in an old-fashioned beachfront pole house. Solipsistly, he remembers growing up, encountering others in the neighborhood, getting married, becoming a father, getting divorced, and living alone. Although in a neighborhood with Native Hawaiians, his contacts are primarily within an isolated Japanese American community, and his parents oppose his teenage interest in a young Chinese gal. He recalls a pristine environment now clouded by high rise apartments. The only hint of his employment is reference to plantation agriculture. The only political events recalled are World War II bombing and statehood, yet he is unimpressed with the fact that statehood brought Japanese into positions of political power after decades of discrimination by White elites during the Territorial period, when rural Japanese were often consigned to live within their own subculture. Although Honolulu-born director Christopher Makoto Yogi, with film education acquired at USC,  seeks a poetic statement about how elderly persons deal with their last days on earth, recalling good and bad memories, his portrayal of Hawaiʽi feeds into a narrative that the Fiftieth State is a backward part of the United States, living in the past, unworthy of national attention despite extraordinary developments that have been deliberately discounted elsewhere in the United States—from high levels of racial intermarriage that served to reshape the way the decennial census now categorizes race, a health care plan that Barack Obama enshrined into Obamacare, the initial court ruling about same-sex marriage, and many other ignored extraordinary achievements. The decision to portray the Aloha State as parochial is nakedly revealed when one character in the film uses the word “mainland” to identify the continental United States.  MH

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