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Villa Pizzo and The Burnt Orange Heresy

by habituallychic

03 . 10 . 20

I wish movie studios would release all new films on demand as well as in theaters now so people have the option of staying home. I ventured downtown last weekend to see The Burnt Orange Heresy but after I saw a girl put lip gloss on her finger and they apply it to her lips on the subway, I regretted that decision. The film wasn’t terrible but could definitely been better in more skillful hands.

The director Giuseppe Capotondi and screenwriter Scott B. Smith who adapted the 1971 novel by Charles Willeford just didn’t seem to have the experience necessary to make it a truly spectacular thriller. Giuseppe Capotondi’s experience lies in music videos and commercials which is interesting because Emma director Autumn de Wilde also directed music videos but knocked it out of the park with her directorial debut. Maybe we shouldn’t make it so hard for women to get hired in Hollywood.

The film opening and beginning really drew me in but biggest issues I had were with some of the dialogue and what felt like an entire missing section between the climax and ending. I just ordered a copy of the book to get a better sense of the story. What I did appreciate is that the film is set in Milan and Lake Como instead of Miami like the book. I can usually put up with a less than stellar story if the location and fashions are chic such was the case with The Burnt Orange Heresy. The marble bathroom in the Milan apartment of James Figueras played by Claes Bang was what one would expect in the modern city but it was the Lake Como villa of wealthy art collector Joseph Cassidy played by Mick Jagger that stole the show. James who’s an art critic and his new lady friend played by Elizabeth Debicki travel to the villa to meet the collector on whose property lives a reclusive artist Jerome Debney played by Donald Sutherland.

Much of the movie was filmed at Villa Pizzo which sits between the charming villages of Cernobbio and Moltrasio. On July 9, 1435, Giovanni Muggiasca, a merchant of Como, acquired a vast land not far from town that was rich in vineyards and olive groves stretching from the shore of the lake till the peak of the hills, crossing Via Regina, the main road serving the entire Lake Como. The last of the Muggiasca family who inhabited the property was John the Baptist, who then became the bishop of Como. It was he who owned a large part of the furniture in neoclassical style and the small marble monument dedicated to Alessandro Volta in the parkland.Gian Battista Muggiasca appointed S. Anna Como Hospital as his sole heir and they immediately put the complex up for auction as it was too expensive to maintain. Now it serves as a popular wedding venue and location for special events. The Burnt Orange Heresy is the first time the villa has appeared on film.

It’s sad that probably a lot of the upcoming weddings scheduled for Villa Pizzo will probably have to be cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus emergency measures in Italy. I spoke to my friend in Milan and she said the lock down is a pain but she’s still able to take her dog for a walk and the food shops and pharmacies are still open. But otherwise, she’s at home and it’s given her the opportunity to do things she usually doesn’t have time to do and she’s cooking more. I hope these measures work and allow the country to recover soon.

We’re still in limbo in New York waiting to see what will happen here which is why I wish I could watch more new films at home. Perhaps Hollywood will realize how much time everyone has on their hands as well as the opportunity to make money by allowing them to be released online.

Villa Pizzo has the largest gardens on Lake Como and they play a large role in the film.

I loved the older model Range Rover that Claes Bang’s British art critic character drives in the film.

In 1630, the Mugiasca family fled to Villa Pizzo to escape the dreaded Manzonian Plague, offering hospitality to several friends in exchange for manual work which involved digging, levelling and terracing the land. Thus the present structure of the garden was created, later to be enlarged at the end of the 18th century by Bishop Giambattista Mugiasca. 

Claes Bang has such a perfect English accent that I didn’t realize that he’s actually Danish. He’s very sexy and mesmerizing in the film and perfectly cast as his character. Some may remember him from the last season of The Affair and Dracula on Netflix. I tried to watch it but the first episode was so gross and gory that I had to stop. He has another film out this year called The Last Vermeer and he’s currently filming the Northman an epic Viking saga with Anya Taylor-Joy from Emma, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and brothers Alexander and Bill Skarsgård.

You can see from the architectural and pastel colors why Villa Pizzo a popular venue for weddings.

I love this photo of the villa from Gianni di Natale.

There is a mix of artists and artwork in the film some which represent well known works.

A view of the sitting room from the film.

The paintings in the background are by contemporary artist Air Daryal.

There are not many good photos of the interior of Villa Pizzo and those that are online are terrible fish eye photos. After the Coronavirus passes, I want to go there and take all new photos.

Mick Jagger is not bad as the art collector but could have dialed down his performance a little.

My new actor crush is definitely Claes Bang.

The dining room with its yellow draperies is incredibly beautiful.

Elizabeth Debicki is 6’3″ and Claes Bang is the first actor she’s been paired with who’s actually taller than her.

I love Donald Sutherland’s draped cardigan over his blazer and will be replicating this look for spring.

When the film was first announced, Christopher Walken was poised to play the role of artist Jerome Debney.

Photos via Holly Clark Photography, Eventoile, and Elena Pensini.