21-Jul, 17:45

16:17, November 16 138 0

2016-11-16 16:17:23
Dante Ferretti Goes From Cinecitta to Madison Avenue

ROME — The last time the Oscar-winning production designer Dante Ferretti tackled New York City, he created the violent mean streets of a mid-19th-century Manhattan slum, a bleak, ramshackle neighborhood where blood and mud caked the ground, for Martin Scorsese’s 2002 opus, “Gangs of New York.”

This time around, Mr. Ferretti has taken a slightly more commercial approach and has lent his design vision to the holiday windows of Tod’s, the leather-goods emporium on Madison Avenue whose majority owner is the Italian industrialist Diego Della Valle, chairman and chief executive of Tod’s S.p.A. Their coproduction will be unveiled to the public this Thursday at a celebratory party.

It may seem like an odd move for someone who worked with Federico Fellini for over a decade and with Mr. Scorsese for nearly a quarter-century. And it is true that normally store windows don’t figure into Mr. Ferretti’s job description.

But he points out that he and Mr. Della Valle have known each other for many years and have worked together on and off since 2002, so he’s happy to give a little help to a friend. The suggestion that he may be selling out provokes some eye-rolling.

“So how much are you paying me?” he said jokingly to the two Tod’s representatives present during a recent interview. “Did you bring the money? Did it fit in the car? It seemed a little small.”

Both Mr. Ferretti and Mr. Della Valle were born in the Marches, in towns just a few kilometers apart. They often cross paths on vacations, in Capri and in Miami, where they have homes (Mr. Ferretti in South Beach, where he is a resident, and Mr. Della Valle in Miami Beach, where he bought Billy Joel’s waterfront villa three years ago).

And Mr. Della Valle is one of the main shareholders of the holding company that controls Cinecittà Studios, the film studios created by Mussolini, which reached their apex in the 1950s and 1960s when Rome became known as “Hollywood on the Tiber” and where Mr. Ferretti has had a private office for some 40 years.

There, behind a door marked by a large sign that reads “Once Upon a Time,” are moody landscapes that the designer said he painted when he wanted a distraction from the moviemaking grind, as well as some of the dozens of awards he has won during a 47-year career: the three Oscars he has won with his wife Francesca Lo Schiavo (making for six statuettes), along with a plethora of British Academy of Film and Television Arts and Los Angeles Film Critic Association awards, and sundry Italian prizes he keeps at home.

Little wonder, then, that the inspiration for his holiday spectacle, which follows a V.I.P. showroom he designed for the Tod’s store in Beverly Hills, Calif., as well as cinema-themed designs for Tod’s events — was Fellini’s idiosyncratic circus-scape, a mythical world of street performers and quirky misfits who repeatedly crop up in the legendary Italian director’s movies.

“I made six films with Fellini, so the circus is very Fellini-like,” said Mr. Ferretti, who was honored with a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen,” two years ago.

Indeed, the Tod’s Madison Avenue windows were a homecoming of sort for Mr. Ferretti, who lived for years on Madison Avenue between 61st and 62nd Streets while he worked on a slew of American films, most prominently with Mr. Scorsese. His ninth film with Mr. Scorsese, “Silence,” about 17th-century Jesuits colonizing Macao and Japan, opens next month.

Acrobats, trapeze artists, lion tamers and circus animals preen across the five large display windows beneath a red-and-white striped big top that calls to mind the American flag. Inside the store, visitors will be able to pose for selfies with circus worker cutouts. Then there are the clowns.

Scratch that. No clowns. “We substituted clowns for people who work in the circus but they’re not dressed like clowns,” Mr. Ferretti said, laughing, in a reference to the recent creepy-clown scare.

The sets for the New York store were made by Mekane, the Italian company he uses for theater and opera sets, and they were shipped to New York and installed during one exhausting overnight effort.

Two dimensional cutouts of circus performers, ringmasters and animals were handmade and hand-painted, while a swing was made with special materials, to give it a vintage effect.

“Films can be very complicated,” said Mr. Ferretti. In comparison, the window displays were a breeze, “if only because it was just one theme.”

According to Mr. Della Valle, “We wanted to something that would transmit joy of life.” As a child, he said, “the circus coming to town was an important event.”

“Even those who don’t enter the store will be cheered,” Mr. Della Valle said. Given the protests currently going on just a few blocks away, that may be some real movie magic, after all.