Gabriella Pescucci is one of my favorite costume designers, specifically for her work on The Age of Innocence and The Borgias — you also probably know her for Dangerous Beauty and Penny Dreadful. I’m always fascinated by looking at designers’ work over time, so let’s take a wander through this talented designer’s historical film projects, going back to some podunk Italian productions but then ending up with some Major Costume Movies!
The Seven Cervi Brothers (1968)
A World War II movie: “The true story of seven Italian brothers, farmers and Catholic, who became Communist and fought for justice and freedom against Fascism.” Not much about the images I’ve found looks very 1940s!
Many Wars Ago (1970)
An Italian World War I movie.
The Murri Affair (1974)
IMDB says: “Based on a true incident, this tells the story of a troubled young man who kills his sister’s reactionary, violent, and abusive husband and is eventually arrested for the murder. However, the dead husband happened to be a member of the Italian nobility, and the trial starts to turn into more of a prosecution of the defendant’s socialist politics and the activities of his father, a well known liberal social reformer, than the actual crime itself.” Sounds pretty interesting, especially given the nice Edwardian costumes seen below!
The Divine Nymph (1975)
A love triangle set in the 1920s.
Il Gabbiano (1977)
An adaptation of a Chekov play-within-a-play.
Passion of Love (1981)
1860s, Italy, love, insanity.
That Night in Varennes (1982)
One at the very top of my shortlist — a fictional story whereby American patriot Thomas Paine, Casanova, the French novelist Restif de La Bretonne, and one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting are all traveling in a coach to Varennes, and happen to be right behind the royal family who are attempting to make their escape.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Pescucci’s first American film: Robert de Niro as a former Prohibition-era gangster in Manhattan.
Good King Dagobert (1984)
A French, medieval-era film — I think it’s a comedy?
The Name of the Rose (1986)
Every parents’ favorite when I was growing up, I’ve never bothered to see it although I know I SHOULD! Sean Connery, Christian Slater, medieval monks, murder, and tonsures.
The Family (1987)
A man’s life story from his birth in 1906 to his 80th birthday.
Haunted Summer (1988)
I feel somewhat offended that Trystan hasn’t reviewed this one yet! WTF? “In 1815, authors Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley get together for some philosophical discussions, but the situation soon deteriorates into mind games, drugs, and sex” (per IMDB). What gives, T?
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
A fabulous, hilarious, and weird historically-inspired fantasy film! Pescucci’s first (of many) collaboration with director Terry Gilliam. The Baron Munchausen tells many tall tales of his adventures; somewhat set in the Regency era.
I saw this back in the day, but don’t remember anything except it being depressing. Catherine Deneuve plays a French woman living at the end of the colonial era in what would become Vietnam (1930), there’s a love triangle between her and her adopted daughter.
The Age of Innocence (1993)
And, now we get to the Extra Good Stuff. Have there ever been better bustles on film? I think not!
Per Amore, Solo per Amore (1993)
The birth of Jesus, told from Joseph’s point of view — Penélope Cruz plays Mary.
The Night and the Moment (1994)
Okay, so it’s a Dangerous Liaisons rip off — there are still some nice elements to the 18th-century costumes (and some theatrical shortcuts).
Solomon & Sheba (1995)
Halle Berry as the Biblical queen.
The Scarlet Letter (1995)
So Demi Moore was miscast in this adaptation of the classic novel, the 17th-century costumes were still gorgeous!
Slave of Dreams (1995)
More Biblical fun! “The Egyptian executioner’s wife tries to seduce Hebrew slave Joseph to fulfill a dream they are experiencing simultaneously” (IMDB). Starring a really weird cast of Edward James Olmos and Sherilyn Fenn, among others.
Albergo Roma (1996)
Italy, 1939, Mussolini is about to visit a small town when things get more complicated…
Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Another highlight (or lowlight, depending on your opinion!). Yes, there’s the WTF “courtesan” costumes, but there’s also some great late 16th-century Italian wear on both women and men, plus Rufus Sewell.
Les Misérables (1998)
Not my favorite adaptation. Liam Neeson, Claire Danes, 1830s snoozefest.
Cousin Bette (1998)
Not a totally successful adaptation of the Balzac novel, but Pescucci’s spot-on 1840s costumes are a definitely highlight.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
Haven’t seen it (sorry!). Yes, it’s fantasy, but this adaptation bookends things in the Edwardian era.
Marcel Proust’s Time Regained (1999)
An adaptation of the famous novel, but that’s all I can tell you!
Van Helsing (2004)
Secret Passage (2004)
1492, Jews escaping from Spain only to face the Inquisition in Venice.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
A not-totally-successful, but still worth-watching, tale of the famous folk tale collectors set in the early 19th century. The highlight are Pescucci’s stunning fantasy costumes on Monica Belluci’s evil queen.
A CGI animated version of the classic Anglo-Saxon tale, but even in animation, someone has to design the costumes!
A really engrossing movie starring the fabulous Rachel Weisz as the ancient philosopher Hypatia.
The Borgias (2011-13)
SO MUCH SHINY FABULOUS 1490S COSTUMES I CAN’T EVEN.
Penny Dreadful (2014-16)
I admit to only watching one episode (gothy horror not being my thing), but what I saw in terms of costumes? STUNNING.
What’s your favorite of Gabriella Pescucci’s costume designs?