Well… really… how can the film Moonstruck lose with Puccini as its inspiration? And Cher as its star!
Which do I praise first? The film’s shamelessly endearing romanticism? Or the
seemingly bottomless depth to one of the world’s greatest stars: Cher?
Oh, I might as well disappoint another woman I admire, Camille Paglia, an Italian- American no less!
Ms. Paglia spends much of her impressively intimidating book, Sexual Personae,
contemptuous of Romanticism and Romantic artists in particular. She saves her
most merciless disdain for English-speaking worshippers of Italy, no less!!
That portion of the Paglia vision broke my heart. Such pain tells you how profoundly
romantic I really am! I’m insufferably sentimental and bathetically vulnerable to
anything Italian. The only one of my parents that I truly loved was neither my Irish
father nor my Norwegian mother. It was my Italian stepmother, Matilda Pavan. Her
parents came from Udine in northeastern Italy. Her father had become a chef at one
of the major hotels in my hometown of Detroit. He, his wife and daughter were three
of the few highlights of Detroit I care to recall.
Then along came a second Italian miracle: the woman in Emilia Romagna who
adopted me as the son she’d always prayed for but never brought to life. Living
becomes heaven on earth with an Italian mother who has saved all of her maternal
instincts for you!
In Moonstruck, Danny Aiello, my costar in Bang the Drum Slowly, his character, so
moonstruck by his mother in that wonderful film, isn’t lying about his surrender. His
obsession with the miracle of his Italian mother is total! An Italian mother is first!
And second! All else? Wives, children, career? At best, they come third.
Now, with my readers hopefully drowning in the soft rays of a winter’s full moon, I
must say that the real star of Moonstruck is Italy.
From the varying versions of Puccini’s La Bohème that we hear during Moonstruck, I
suspect the character most drowning in tears from that opera was not even Cher. It
was John Patrick Shanley. Not even “Moriarty” can surpass the Gaelic combination of
this playwright and screenwriter’s last two names:
Another Irish Lover of Italy, John Patrick Shanley
To paraphrase a comment I once overheard, “Shanley looks so cute ‘n droll ya
wanna spank ‘im!”
There’s plenty of spanking in Moonstruck if you consider Shanley’s wit and Cher’s
kisses as divine corporal punishment.
What Tennessee Williams made tragic in A Streetcar Named Desire, Shanley
transforms into the victories of passion. Desire so vibrant that one can only laugh…
and then, of course, cry with Cher at the Met!
Moonstruck is a mild description of what overwhelms every member of the cast and
It’s not the moon.
And, for me, it is Florence.
But, then again, there’s Venice!!
And my Italian stepmother!!!!
And my Italian adoptive mother!!!!!
All screwing with my Irish romanticism!
When Cher throws her head back in a near faint while held in the arms of Nicolas
That is exactly how I felt when I first saw the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.
I was not moonstruck.
I was dumbstruck!
The “Big White One” of Florence, Il Biancone
And guess who Il Biancone is staring at in jealousy?!
Some Replica, Eh?
Not merely the home of the Renaissance, but a rebirth that brought Man to levels of
beauty he’d never seen before, even in ancient Greece.
From Puccini to Andrea Botticelli to Frank Sinatra!!
From my favorite entrée, Vitello Tonnato, to any flavor of gelato!
From my stepmother, Matilda Pavan, to my adoptive mother, Maria Luisa.
Moonstruck’s Madonna Magdalena
If you don’t fall madly in love with this movie, then you and Camille Paglia should
meet. If she’s not in love with it either, then, who knows, you both might be
Moonstruck with each other. The two of you might mysteriously be living in the
same post-post-post-graduate seminar.
The only people I feel sorrier for than myself as a virulently incurable romantic are
those who can’t stand romance.
For those who love romance until they’re cockeyed?
See Moonstruck about once a month.
Then visit Italy, the inspiration for everyone involved in Moonstruck.
You, like I, may contract The Stendhal Syndrome!
Look it up in Wikipedia!
You will never be the same after Italy.
It will take years for life to drag you down off that other planet you will be living on!
You will, indeed, see the potential for a whole new outlook on life!!
Every day as a new beginning!!!
Every moment a Renaissance!!!!