a debate as old as time: does a woman need a family in order to live a
fulfilled life? In Italian director Maria Sole Tognazzi’s A Five Star Life (out today), Irene (Margherita Bey), a successful professional in her forties, inspects the
quality of luxury hotels for a living. In other words, she’s a “mystery guest,” swooping in on
unsuspecting locales to judge their standards to exacting perfection (the
promptness of concierge, the arrangement of cutlery, the temperature of wine).
And she does so “freely,” aka husband-less and child-less. Her only connections
lie with her sister, married and mother of two, and her best friend, an
unplanned father-to-be. But while wandering the stunning locales of Paris,
Sweden, and Marrakesh, Irene rings from emptiness. She travels alone, eats
alone, and sleeps alone, but disguised in such glamorous surroundings, who
would ever think about loneliness? A Five Star Life is about
journeys, specifically Irene’s, but also the viewer’s, for intimacy, which, as the
film states, is a “personalized concept.”
Women and Hollywood spoke to director Tognazzi about telling a different kind of female-centric story — about an authentic women instead of the selfish careerwomen so often seen on screen — and using her family background to reveal a world usually unseen to most people.
WaH: How did
you get involved with the film?
MST: I wanted to
make a film about an authentic woman — alone, but happy — without going into
the cliches of the selfish and problematic career woman.
inspired you to make the film?
MST: My mother’s family
owned many historic hotels in Rome, so the idea of making a film entirely in hotels
fascinated me. [My co-writers] Ivan Cotroneo and Francesca Marciano and I created
the figure of the inspector in disguise that allowed us to tell a story about a
job unknown to many.
WaH: As both a
viewer and a writer, seeing a successful, talented, independent woman in her
forties, an age the Hollywood industry tends to ignore, was incredibly
refreshing. How important was it to you to tell the story of an older woman’s
life, desires, and struggles without falling into cliches and stereotypes?
MST: I was tired
of seeing women in my country told in the same way. Generally losers, or betrayed,
or victims. Everything came out from this desire. The ability to give voice to
a real character, a woman who, despite not having a family, children or a
steady job feels happy because she has been able to choose what to do with her
life. And even if it is not a perfect life, it is the life that she evidently wanted.
WaH: The use of
cinematography to highlight the difference between isolation and intimacy is
breathtaking. Can you discuss your approach to the choice of visuals?
MST: I was trying
to get inspiration every time I arrived in a different city. When we travel, we
live in different colors and atmospheres, and I wanted it to be so also for
Irene. Only Rome, the city where she returns, the city where there are her
stable affections, maintains the same light.
WaH: Is there
any advice you would give to aspiring women filmmakers?
MST: Trust your
instincts, just like Irene. Have courage.