Marcello Mastroianni’s sweet life

I just watched Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) again and couldn’t help taking pictures of the iconic scene I like most; the film has lost much of its ability to shock but it remains a visual delight:

Anita Ekberg is beautiful in a midnight splash in the Trevi fountain basin and Marcello Mastroianni plays one of his best roles as the quintessential Latin Lover, a gossip columnist torn between the sweet life and his more intellectual aspirations.

The Trevi Fountain scene is amazing when you find out that because of the cold, Mastroianni is wearing a wetsuit under his clothes and she has gulped down a bottle of cognac; Ekberg stood in the water for hours with no problem:

The handsome Mastroianni remains one of the icons of Italian cinema. It was his role as a womanizing tabloid reporter in this 1960 film that won him worldwide acclaim. I love watching old movies with 21st century eyes.

So what happens when the self-deprecating charmer of Italian films,

meets the most beautiful French woman, Catherine Deneuve?

Chiara Mastroianni!

My three Italian boy friends

I was late for my rendez-vous with Italo Calvino but he didn’t get mad; time is after all an elastic commodity for Italians…

italo calvino umberto eco primo levi michele roohani

Seamus Heany talked to me at length about him and encouraged me not to despair but how could I? Calvino suddenly died before I got to know him.

italo calvino michele roohani read books

Of the Italian Princes so far I only knew Umberto Eco and Primo Levi; I got to like Eco a lot after he took me to see the movie The name of the Rose about twenty years ago. Umberto and Primo each deserve their own blog post but let’s continue with Calvino.

italo calvino michele roohani pink orchids

I liked so much what Calvino’s said about reading that I need to share it with you; read it and judge for yourself:

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you…And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. ”

italo calvino michele roohani read books wordle

The above image is that passage in wordle.

Gore Vidal wrote in 1985: “Europe regarded Calvino’s death as a calamity for culture.” and I agree. Italy is not just an operatic country with clowns like Berlusconi at its head…

A couple more quotes from Calvino:

“Novels as dull as dishwater, with the grease of random sentiments floating on top.”

“Only a certain prosaic solidity can give birth to creativity: fantasy is like jam; you have to spread it on a solid slice of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing, like jam, out of which you can’t make anything.”

Read about Calvino here

Vidal talking about him here

From Mies to Kahn, I love my architects

I still remember the outrage in the voice of my friend, Lino Bottaro, trying to defend his native city, Venice, against the Las Vegas Venetian hotel: “how dare you suggest that they did an ok job in Vegas? Haven’t you heard of great architects like Palladio or Brunelleschi?”

mies van der rohe cigar barcelona chair seagram building michele roohani

Of course I have heard of those two great Italians but I have a weakness for the 20th century STARchitects like the great Mies van der Rohe above, who’s more known for his Barcelona chair than his great buildings! Mies’ visionary architecture has ushered in the glass-and-steel skyscraper era.

I fell in love with Louis Kahn’s work after watching the movie, My Architect.

louis kahn bangladesh Margaret Esherick House michele roohani

A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…

Knowing Oscar Niemeyer was a beautiful surprise from an article in NY Times; he’s 101 years old and still working!

oscar niemeyer Museum of Contemporary Art rio staircase michele roohani

Just look at this enchanting blue staircase in Brasilia…

Cutting-edge buildings designed by globe-trotting architects have changed the face of today’s cities and there is no monopoly of architecture, a sensuous and intellectual art, like in the time of Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies:

frank lloyd wright falling water guggenheim michele roohani design

Of all of today’s self-indulgent “star architects”, I still have a soft spot for Frank Gehry’s curves; you have to be in one of his buildings to see the frozen poetry in Bilbao, Prague, Los Angeles, etc…

frank gehry michele roohani bilbao spain prague tiffany

His Bilbao museum is the 20th century’s iconic architecture according to the architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable.

Last but not least, Rem Koolhaas’ unconventional designs are a force to reckon with:

rem koolhaas michele roohani seattle public library

I shouldn’t even get into the Diva, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron or Tadao Ando (the great light and water architect)…Those will be for another post, another day. Richard Meier, Taniguchi and the phenomenal Charles Gwathmey have to wait their turn too.  As you can see I am passionate about architecture…

Saint Mark’s Basilica venice michele roohani

“Less is more.” Mies van der Rohe

“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” Frank Lloyd Wright

p.s. Renzo Piano is missing from my list because I have not forgiven him for his wild Pompidou Center design and his Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles has not helped his case!

the photos of Prague, Bilbao, Venice and Seattle are from my own archives.

Is somebody flattering me?

Is somebody flattering me by copying me? It sure looks like it! To all the people who want to know how the mysterious woman’s face in the official Cannes film festival poster looks like, take a look at my post here.

My friend Mitra called me this morning, super excited about the Cannes Film Festival’s official poster which looks so much like the stills I have in this post:

avventura cannes poster michele roohani

This poster looks a lot like the images I made by taking pictures of my tv screen last february:

“I got to watch L’Avventura (The Adventure) last night and Antonioni’s poetic compositions were arresting:

avventura monica vitti terrace cannes film festival

Monica Vitti is divine in these shots from 50 years ago…

l’avventura monica vitti stairs michele roohani

Today’s generations think they have invented these styles/fashions; our arrogance fades after watching a couple of these films.”

I just can’t resist adding a couple of  more pictures from that film:

avventura monica vitti  polka dot michele roohani

It seems that I wasn’t the only one interested in still shots from Avventura—Annick Durban did a great poster for Cannes festival (and flattered me!)

avventura monica vitti  blond chignon michele roohani

To see the beauty of this now famous scene, go here.

To see my original post go here.

Let’s boldly go to the movies

Should I be jealous of Uhura kissing Spock? After all, he is my first love and I’ve known him since he was speaking Persian to the good old James Tiberius Kirk and they were called Pishtaazaane Fazaa…

spock uhura michele roohani

I have grown up like millions of Iranians with Star Trek—my cousin, Anousheh Ansari, was inspired by them (she even made the vulcan salute before going to space!)

I still have his picture in my bedroom to prove my unchanging love for Spock:

mood board michele roohani spock

I went to see the movie yesterday and I liked it a lot—I am a hopeless Trekkie and all the holes in the plot didn’t bother me a bit. I was relieved to see the first Enterprise where the shield wasn’t leaking energy every few minutes; maybe as Roger Ebert suggested, they did get new batteries…

spock uhura music michele roohani

On a more serious note, I saw a couple of great movies this week: Il Divo, an Italian film about Gulio Andreotti—I loved it in spite of my ignorance about the politicians involved (and the Mafia),

il divo andreotti michele roohani

Somebody called the new Star Trek movie operatic—they have to see Il Divo to see how a governement can be operatic! That clown Berlusconi is not helping the Byzantine image of Italian politics…

gulio andreotti michele roohani

Another very interesting film I saw was Examined Life; I only knew a couple of the Philosophers but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of watching some intelligent thoughts on screen:

examined life michele roohani

It reminded me of Saul Bellow’s funny quote: Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ My revision is, ‘But the examined life makes you wish you were dead.’

The next film was Goodbye Solo, by the hottest young director—according to Ebert—Ramin Bahrani:

goodbye solo ramin bahrani michele roohani

not bad for a young Persian dude

You can watch him with Charlie Rose here.

ramin bahrani Matthew Monteith michele roohani

A good movie to me is the one that stays in your mind for a little more than the two hours that you are spending in the theatre and these films will stay with me for a while like my last year’s favorite, Starting out in the evening or Michael Apted‘s unforgettable Up Series about the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old,  up to now (the next episode will be in 2012).

7 and up apted michele roohani

Imagine seeing the same people grow old in front of your eyes every seven years—it took 42 years to make it—now that’s a documentary!

I do watch entertaining films like the Batman series/Iron Man/Duplicity but from time to time it is refreshing to watch something that makes you stop and think.

Last but not least, today is Mother’s Day in America so please don’t forget to love your mother.

mother’s day calligrapahy micheleroohani rose

Visit my best movie post here; these films are really worth watching again.

The gorgeous Alain Delon

Alain Delon is the most handsome man of Cinema—I say is because he’s always the same age when you are watching his films. I just saw The Samurai again and took these pictures. I go back to these old films for their art direction and their history.

alain delon le samourai montage michele roohani

Just look at these timeless shots of The Samurai:

alain delon le samourai blue car michele roohani

No Cary Grant can touch him here:

alain delon le samourai last secene michele roohani

So modern in this beautiful shot:

alain delon le samourai cage michele roohani

Delon is very succinct in this film,

alain delon le samourai blue corridor michele roohani

my favorite scene of the whole movie:

alain delon le samourai metro michele roohani

Netflix is making it so much easier to find these old films. I got to watch L’Avventura last night and Antonioni’s poetic compositions were arresting:

l’avventura monica vitti terrace michele roohani

Monica Vitti is divine in these shots from 50 years ago…

l’avventura monica vitti stairs michele roohani

Today’s generations think they have invented these styles/fashions; our arrogance fades after watching a couple of these films.

l’avventura monica vitti mirror michele roohani

50 years ago people…And you wonder where Barbie (who turns 50 this week) got her image from…

l’avventura monica vitti close up michele roohani

I just loved this shot,

l’avventura monica vitti corridor women michele roohani

these close-ups are amazing,

l’avventura monica vitti newspaper michele roohani

The visual language of these films is so relevant after all these years.

l’avventura monica vitti Gabriele Ferzetti michele roohani

Gabriele Ferzetti is smashing and looks so 21st century:

l’avventura Gabriele Ferzetti michele roohani

Shot mostly in Sicily—Noto and Messina, the architect protagonist is in his element:

l’avventura  Gabriele Ferzetti michele roohani

and here,

l’avventura bar Gabriele Ferzetti michele roohani

and this is how I did all of this:

l’avventura chez moi Gabriele Ferzetti michele roohani

This was my homage to  Alain Delon.

Added on 5/22/09:

My friend Mitra called me this morning, super excited about the Cannes Film Festival’s official poster which looks so much like the images i have in this post:

avventura cannes poster michele roohani

Did somebody flatter me by copying me?

Coffee from paradise

I had the best coffee in Los Angeles  last week at Caffé Luxxe. Following  a tip from the director of Coffee Quality Institute—aka the Cupper Gods—I experienced the joy of having a real espresso outside europe: “espresso should have a rich honey-like texture topped off with a velvety, dark red-brown “crema.” This is the sign of una bella tazza di espresso: a beautiful cup of espresso.”

Here is my first cappuccino:

caffe luxxe cappuccino michele roohani

I was so sick and tired of (at best mediocre and at worst just plain bad) coffee served in the chain stores. The horror in the eyes of my european friends  after receiving a bit of bitter coffee in the bottom of a big paper cup has always amused me! It looks like they are serving you what’s left from the previous customer…

caffe luxxe cappuccino michele roohani black and white

I went back this morning for an early cup and standing at the counter, Italian bar style, I read a horrifying article about Putin and Georgia (call me a masochist) and remembered all the problems I was trying to forget… The great coffee brought back the vanished smile to my face!

café  Huntley michele roohani santa monica view

They have a great Synesso machine and Yaniv, the talented barista creates these fabulous cups with panache! To see how, watch this short clip and if you have a better attention span (read more than 30 seconds) watch this one on the craft of making coffee art.

So is coffee good for us? An excellent article on the subject by Jane Brody in New York Times has some answers.

Finding a European style café that serves great espresso in Los Angeles can almost make one forget the world’s problems.  Now If you really want to be scared just look at this map from Le Monde Diplomatique.

balkan map le monde diplomatique michele roohani

How is that for a nightmare in the making? Not only we are not at the End of History  but people like Fukumaya should start paying attention to the latest conflict involving Russia!  You take Kosovo, we take Georgia and Moldova!! Be scared people, be very scared…

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interests.”  Winston Churchill

These are sobering times – now you know why I needed to find a good cup of joe.

A Persian in Venice

My smile got bigger and bigger as I continued listening to Professor Riccardo Zipoli talking about Iran in his near perfect Persian; but then I got a bit frustrated remembering that in spite of speaking three languages myself, I have to applaud every non-Persian who can say 4 words in my mother tongue! Listen to him talk here to see what I mean by Zipoli’s flawless Persian.

zipoli kohguilouyeh

These two pictures are from the Professor’s huge archive. He has a soft spot for the rural landscape/people of Iran.

zipoli tchador

Born near Florence, teaching in Venice, reciting Sohrab Sepehri better than most of the natives has endeared Zipoli to Persians. I particularly like his Tree series. You can find more of his pictures on his site.

zipoli tak-derakht

Looking at these images made me nostalgic so I went to look for some pictures from my last trip to Iran about 14 years ago. Here is one of my favorites from the Shah’s Mosque in Isfahan, a marvel of Safavid art. I still remember my awe in front of all these magnificent architectural wonders.

michele roohani turquoise mosque

“If you come to visit me
Come gently and slowly lest the fragile china
Of my solitude cracks”
به سراغ من اگر مي‌آييد،
نرم و آهسته بياييد، مبادا كه ترك بردارد
چيني نازك تنهايي من
“Si vous venez m’y chercher,
Venez-vous-en donc lentement et doucement
De crainte que ne se raye
La porcelaine de ma solitude.” Sohrab Sepehri

And for all of you people who are still looking for a Persian in Venice, I am sharing this picture I took some years ago.

michele roohani venice gondolas

Turner in Venice

i’ve been to Venice, Italy some years ago but i think that i would probably not go back to this beautiful but over-crowded city for a while – as usual i like it better when it’s empty of the unwashed masses. Venice has been home to the great Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto (cinquecento Venice) and Casanova…


i was moved by Venice and its 120 islands on the Adriatic sea but i loved it most at 5:30 in the morning. after years i still like these pictures i took one foggy morning when everybody was asleep.


“I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand” Lord Byron


i never particularly liked Turner – i didn’t know him much and i found it exasperating that 10 of his paintings were hung side by side in a museum in london (all yellow seas) – it all changed the day that i bought (in 2004) a book called Turner and Venice. i was humbled by the beauty of his paintings (all blue skies) and sketches. i’ve been watching Simon Schama‘s “Power of Art” on pbs and he talks about Turner in one of the eight episodes (among other giants like Picasso, Rembrandt, David and Rothko).




i would love to go back to Venice one day when it snows and everybody else is at Disneyland.