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Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), uncle of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), states early on in House of Gucci that, “quality is remembered long after price is forgotten” establishing the raison d’être of the Gucci empire. Aldo’s statement doubles up as the slogan of Ridley Scott’s twilight years as a director, seemingly making films which he is passionate about which are full of gusto and colour. House of Gucci follows the fashion empire as family ties become detached and romances fall out of favour. Maurizio and his cousin Paolo (Jared Leto) fight over the Gucci empire putting to the test family loyalties. Gucci starts with Maurizio marrying the lower-class Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga), as he escapes the responsibilities of the clothing business to be with her. However, Gucci is like the Vatican of fashion. In any sacred place you don’t betray your word or family.
Whilst Scott’s most recent release, The Last Duel(2021), was centred in medieval France replete with English accents and ill-tempered bromances, House of Gucci sees Scott flourishing with comical Italian accents. Scott’s classically trained eye blends in nicely throughout the film, through its sophisticated costume design and abstract expressionist art that adorns Aldo Gucci’s office seen by the vogue Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko paintings.
Scott references other seminal directors like Martin Scorsese who have championed the tragic opera film genre which Gucci sees itself confined to. The blending of operatic tropes through the gaudy costume design and thumping soundtrack is appropriate given the film’s setting in Italy, the birthplace of opera. Throughout the film Italian scores blare out including a sentimental montage shot in bright orange and red in which Maurizio is pictured emulating the working-class lifestyle of Patrizia to the tune of “I am a Believer” (Sono bugiarda). Unlike Scorsese though, Scott’s fall from grace, marking the descent into tragedy, occurs well into the second act, enveloping the viewer in uncertainty .
Gaga’s acting sees herself stepping into melodrama, playing with bravado, and demanding she maintains her pampered lifestyle. The irony wasn’t lost that a pop star plays a working-class lady propelled into haute couture and lavishness. Gaga complements the role of Patrizia because she is accustomed to the limelight.
Driver, on the other hand, contrasts Gaga’s boisterous energy as the reserved and self-assured Maurizio, who continuously fails to make the right decision by way of the Gucci dynasty. Due to the risqué roles he has assumed (Henry McHenry in Annette and Jacques Le Gris in The Last Duel over the last summer alone), Driver demonstrates that he doesn’t want to be be pigeon-holed or type-cast, forcing him into roles that bring out a je ne sais quoi to his performances.
Scott’s film tells the sprawling saga of the ominous rise and subsequent downfall of the Gucci family with a pared back cast full of curious selections that bring the melodrama of the dynasty to the screen. Gucci was more than a brand or a clothing label, it was undermined by betrayal and family disloyalties, all of which provide the thrust of melodrama in Ridley Scott’s latest movie House of Gucci.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino
Writers: Becky Johnston, Roberto Bentivegna, (story by Becky Johnston, based on the book by Sara Gay Forden)
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