The Italian Actress: A Novel
Set in Italy, Frank Lentricchia's sixth novel features a has-been Italian American filmmaker, once internationally acclaimed for the beauty of his images and his experiments in pornography but now stuck in prolonged creative drought. At an obscure film festival in Volterra he meets the aging but still stunning Claudia Cardinale, star of Fellini's 8½. She falls in love with him, but he resists, yet all the while wanting not to resist. Instead of remaining with Cardinale, he casts his lot with a perverse but compelling couple who convince him that he can regain his renown and achieve artistic immortality if he will only make a new film starring the two of them--an explicitly sexual film of shocking violence. The Italian Actress is a meditation, by turns lyrical and bluntly brutal, on our obsession with celebrity, ambition, the cult of youthful beauty, romantic desire, the aging body, mortality, the power of the visual image, and underneath it all, the nature of visuality itself.