GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata

There was a time when I was transitioning from a life of "adventure" to a life of filmmaking. I had a girlfriend during that period who worked for Tony Ford, the vice president of television packaging at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills. Tony would occasionally throw parties for friends and clients that we would attend. Guests included show business stars like Neil Simon, Marsha Mason, Red Buttons and Vince Edwards. These gatherings were always interesting and it was usual for the evening to turn into something of a vaudeville show with Red leading the way with a soft-shoe performance and a song or two in which others would join him. These exhibitions were always spontaneous and unrehearsed and all the more enjoyable for it.

Once in conversation with Tony, the subject of Venice came up and I asked if he knew of Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata. Count Volpi had commissioned the famous Ferrari Breadvan that was owned by my good friend Matthew Ettinger at the same time I had my GTO. He not only knew of him but apparently knew him. "They hold the Venice Film Festival in his house," was Tony's reply. At the time, I didn't know if he was speaking literally or figuratively but I got the point. A half a lifetime later, I came to understand to what degree Venice is Volpi's house when I read The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt during an overnight train ride from the south of France to Venice.

Over the years, I have visited Venice often. Sometimes I went with someone I loved; sometimes with someone who loved me. I took my father there once for dinner. On another occasion, I was there to shoot scenes for my movie Point of Departure. Another time, I had the pleasure of speaking with Gregor von Bismarck who directed a film based on the novel Vaporetto 13 by Robert Girardi parts of which were shot in the house of--Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata.

It is strange how certain people hover on the periphery of your life exerting an influence sometimes greater than those you've met. I became aware of Gianni Volpi at the age of 19 and felt his influence in a number of ways throughout the course of my life. He has taken on mythic proportion and it is likely I will never meet him, more's the pity. I suspect we could spend an entire evening over dinner and never get around to the subject of Ferraris. Perhaps to have met Venice is to have met Volpi.

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