THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA

This incredible pink tulle dress reminds me of another, equally magnificent: the one worn by Ava Gardner in “The Barefoot Contessa”.

The dress I’m wearing here comes from Marcel and Jeannette, specialists in ancient costumes – and behind Marcel and Jeannette are rather hiding two women, Virginie and Merry. And since these two ladies are my friends, they loaned me this beautiful dress for a photoshoot. The dress is quite obviously from the 1950. The bustier, incredible, reflects an impressive craftsmanship and the tulle skirt is just perfect.

Which brings me to this other amazing dress, worn by Ava Gardner in one of the scenes (the casino scene, to be precise) of “The Barefoot Contessa”. Made by the Fontana sisters for the purposes of the film, this pink dress – which isn’t in tulle but in duchess silk satin – is quite simply a work of art. It’s on display at the Met.

So let’s talk about “The Barefoot Contessa”, released in 1954. Joseph Mankiewicz, its director, wanted to shoot the bitter version of a modern Cinderella and it is sadly brilliant.

The film opens with a scene at a cemetery – for the funeral of Maria Vargas (played by Ava Gardner), whose story is told in flashbacks by some of those present at the funeral.

We thus discover Maria, an undoubtedly fascinating young dancer from Madrid who is made into a Hollywood star, under the aegis of an unscrupulous American producer. However, Maria never really feels happy in this sophisticated world. Her love affairs are hardly more satisfying and will end tragically.

She is seen as a commodity by men who treat her as an object rather than an artist or even a living, breathing being. We never see Maria’s perspective and her inner thoughts are hardly revealed. Mystery surrounds Maria, since she has no space to express her personality. Her statue realized by an adoring sculptor is the perfect allegory of this imprisoned woman, constantly objectified and with no hope of being happy or simply herself.

For the record, the character of Maria Vargas is said to be based on Rita Hayworth (who was offered the part but turned it down for this exact reason), her Spanish origins, her journey from a modest background to international stardom, her first vocation as a dancer, her relations with her producer Harry Cohn, boss of Columbia studio or her unhappy love affairs with Eddy Judson and Prince Ali Khan.

As Jean-Pierre Coursodon and Bernard Tavernier had so rightly noted, in their book “50 years of American cinema”, “we will not soon forget the passionate song of The Barefoot Contessa, a dazzling film with a thousand facets of the sphinx, the desperate struggle of a heroine of useless splendor against a sordid world”.

Vintage Dior tulle gown from Marcel et Jeannette, Parisian Flea Market – Dior belt – Prada heels – JD Barocca earrings