In the post-war period, Italy was rapidly transforming. The hardships of reconstruction in the 40s and 50s soon gave way to the great economic boom of the 60s. A large factor in this boom was the amount of American financial interest in Italy, a product of the occupation at the end of the war. The greatest symbol of this was the Cinecittà studios, which became second only to Hollywood as the biggest centre of film production in the world.
Countless international productions were filmed at Cinecittà where labour was cheaper than in America. Rome became a hub for the world’s most glamorous stars to congregate and mostly they were to be found on the Via Veneto. Photographers like Marcello Geppetti and Tazio Secchiaroli would flock to the cafes and nightclubs along the strip in order to photograph them, armed with their Rollei twin reflex cameras and braun flash attachments. It was these photographers, and most particularly Secchiaroli who became the basis for Fellini’s character ‘Paparazzo’ in La Dolce Vita.
Brigitte Bardot spent a great deal of time in Italy shooting Jean Luc- Godard’s Le Mepris (filmed at Cinecittà and in Capri) and Louis Malle’s La Vie Privee (filmed in France and in Spoletto). When she arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, she was greeted by a throng of reporters and photographers, Patrick Morin among them. Morin’s shots of Bardot leaving the plane perfectly capture the essence of an era. They belong to a visual trope that symbolized the height of modern luxury and the glamorous ‘jet-set’ lifestyle.
La Vie Privee follows the life of fictional diva and sex icon ‘Jill’ who due to the pressures of fame and a troubled personal life meets a tragic end. Often overlapping with biographical details of Bardot’s own life, the film blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Referring to Bardot’s relationship with the persistent press, the film paints the picture of an ever-growing army of paparazzi willing to cross any line for a shot.
Marcello Geppetti’s images of Bardot in Spoleto, are paparazzi images of a star playing the role of a star being hounded by paparazzi. There is nonetheless an innocence and sense of collusion in the images.