Stealing Beauty

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Stealing Beauty
Stealing Beauty Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBernardo Bertolucci
Screenplay bySusan Minot
Story byBernardo Bertolucci
Produced byJeremy Thomas
CinematographyDarius Khondji
Edited byPietro Scalia
Music byRichard Hartley
Distributed by
Release date
  • March 29, 1996 (1996-03-29) (Italy)
  • May 16, 1996 (1996-05-16) (France)
  • August 23, 1996 (1996-08-23) (United Kingdom)
Running time
  • 113 minutes
  • 119 minutes (DVD)
  • English
  • French
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • German
Box office$4.7 million[2]

Stealing Beauty (French: Beauté volée; Italian: Io ballo da sola) is a 1996 drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Liv Tyler, Joseph Fiennes, Jeremy Irons, Sinéad Cusack, and Rachel Weisz. Written by Bertolucci and Susan Minot, the film is about a nineteen-year-old American woman who travels to a lush Tuscan villa near Siena to stay with family friends of her poet mother, who recently died.[3] The film was an international co-production between France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, and was Tyler's first leading film role.

Stealing Beauty premiered in Italy in March 1996, and was officially selected for the 1996 Cannes Film Festival in France in May.[4] It was released in the United States on June 14, 1996.

The film was made entirely in the Tuscany region of Italy during the summer of 1995. The main location for filming was the estate of Castello di Brolio, and a small villa on the property.


Lucy Harmon (Liv Tyler), a nineteen-year-old American, is the daughter of well-known (now deceased) poet and model, Sara Harmon. The film opens as Lucy arrives for a vacation at the Tuscan villa of Sara's old friends Ian and Diana Grayson (played by Donal McCann and Sinéad Cusack, respectively). Other guests include a prominent New York art gallery owner, an Italian advice columnist and an English writer, Alex Parrish (Jeremy Irons), who is dying of an unspecified disease. Lucy goes for a swim, and finds that Diana's daughter from a previous marriage, Miranda Fox (Rachel Weisz), is also there with her boyfriend, entertainment lawyer Richard Reed (D. W. Moffett). Miranda's brother, Christopher (Joseph Fiennes), is supposed to be there, but he is off on a road trip with the Italian son of a neighboring villa, Niccolò Donati (Roberto Zibetti). Lucy was particularly hoping to see Niccolò, whom she had met on a previous visit to the villa, four years earlier, and who was the first boy she'd ever kissed. Lucy and Niccolò had briefly exchanged letters after this first visit. One letter in particular Lucy had admired so much she memorized it.

Lucy reveals to the gallerist that she is there to have her portrait made by Ian, who is a sculptor. She says it's really just an excuse for her father to send her to Italy, "as a present." Smoking marijuana with Parrish, Lucy reveals that she is a virgin. When Parrish shares this information with the rest of the villa the next day, Lucy is furious and decides to cut her visit short. While she is on the telephone booking a flight to New York, however, Christopher and Niccolò return from their road trip, and Lucy is once again happy, although she is disappointed that Niccolò did not immediately recognize her.

That evening, Niccolò comes to the Grayson villa for dinner, accompanied by his brother, Osvaldo (Ignazio Oliva). After dinner, the young people separate from the adults to smoke marijuana. Lucy is now able to laugh about Parrish's betrayal, and the group take turns recounting when they each lost their virginity. When the question comes around to Osvaldo, he demurs, saying, "I don't know which is more ridiculous, this conversation or the silly political one going on over there [at the grown-ups' table]." Lucy fawns over Niccolò but abruptly vomits in his lap.

The next day Lucy rides a bicycle to the Donati villa, looking for Niccolò. A servant informs her that he is in the garden, where Lucy finds him kissing another girl. Hastily bicycling away from the compound, she passes Osvaldo, who has been hunting with his dog. As she passes, Osvaldo holds up a jackrabbit he has killed and cries, "Ciao, Lucy!" Lucy doesn't stop but loses control of the bicycle at the next turn. Osvaldo tries to help but Lucy rebuffs his efforts and rides on.

The next day, Lucy poses outdoors for Ian's sketch studies, at one point exposing one of her breasts. Niccolò and Osvaldo arrive in a car. Niccolò ogles Lucy, but Osvaldo looks away, decrying Lucy's lack of propriety. Ian dismisses Lucy, who wanders off into an adjacent olive grove, followed by Niccolò. They begin to make out, but Lucy eventually pushes him away.

Retreating to the guest house, Lucy shares her notebook with Parrish. Up to this point, the viewer has been led to believe that this notebook contains Lucy's writings. Now it is made clear that this is one of Sara Harmon's last notebooks. It contains an enigmatic poem that Lucy thinks holds clues to the identity of her real father. Throughout the film, she has been asking probing questions about her mother. Did Parrish ever know Sara to wear green sandals? Had Ian ever eaten olive leaves? Had Carlo Lisca (Carlo Cecchi) a war correspondent friend of the Graysons whom Sara had known ever killed a viper? All of these images are found in the poem, which Lucy now reads to Parrish. Lucy and Parrish agree that the poem must refer to Lucy's real father.

That evening, Lucy wears her mother's dress to the Donati's annual party. Almost immediately after arriving, Lucy sees Niccolò with another girl and the two do not speak. Lucy sees Osvaldo playing clarinet in the band that is providing musical entertainment. She later sees Osvaldo dancing with a girl, but they exchange earnest glances. Lucy picks up a young Englishman to take back to the Grayson's villa. On the way out, Osvaldo chases Lucy down and says that he's interested in visiting America and would like advice. They agree to meet the next day. Lucy leaves with the Englishman, who spends the night at the Grayson's villa but without having sex with Lucy.

The next day, Parrish's health takes a turn for the worse, and he is taken to the hospital. After the ambulance goes, Lucy skulks around Parrish's quarters in the guest house. Looking out one of his windows, she sees one of Ian's sculptures of a mother and child. The expression on her face suggests that she has had an epiphany. She goes to Ian's studio and asks him where he was in August 1975, when she was conceived. Ian says he was here, fixing up the villa. He says he thinks that might have been when Lucy's mother was at the villa, having her own portrait made. Lucy says, "That's what I thought." Ian says they could ask Diana, but then he remembers that Diana was back in London at the time, finalizing her divorce. Without explicitly saying so, the two appear to acknowledge that Ian is Lucy's biological father, and Lucy promises to keep the secret.

In the meantime, Osvaldo has arrived at the villa. When Lucy exits Ian's studio, she is stung by a bee. Osvaldo rescues her and takes her to a brook, giving her wet clay for her stings. As they walk through the countryside, Osvaldo confesses that he wrote to Lucy once, pretending to be Niccolò. This letter turns out to be the letter that Lucy loved above all the others, the letter which she memorized. Lucy can't believe it, but Osvaldo recites part of the letter and takes Lucy to a tree he had described in the letter as "my tree".

Lucy and Osvaldo spend the night under the tree, where Lucy finally loses her virginity. As they part the next morning, Osvaldo reveals that it was his first time, too.



  1. "2 Wicky" (Burt Bacharach) by Hooverphonic
  2. "Glory Box" by Portishead
  3. "If 6 Was 9" (Jimi Hendrix) by Axiom Funk
  4. "Annie Mae" by John Lee Hooker
  5. "Rocket Boy" by Liz Phair
  6. "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
  7. "My Baby Just Cares For Me" (Walter Donaldson) by Nina Simone
  8. "I'll Be Seeing You" (Sammy Fain) by Billie Holiday
  9. "Rhymes Of An Hour" (Hope Sandoval) by Mazzy Star
  10. "Alice" by Cocteau Twins
  11. "You Won't Fall" by Lori Carson
  12. "I Need Love" by Sam Phillips
  13. "Say It Ain't So" by Roland Gift
  14. "Horn concerto in D K412, 2nd movement" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  15. "Clarinet concerto in A K622, 2nd movement" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Additional songs
  • "Rock Star" by Hole was also used in the film. Tyler is shown dancing and singing wildly along to the track, listening with her headphones and walkman.
  • Björk's song "Bachelorette" of her 1997 album Homogenic was originally written to be part of the soundtrack and its first working title was "Bertolucci". Björk later faxed Bertolucci to inform him the song would be used on her upcoming album instead.


Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave it 2 out of 4, and wrote: "The movie plays like the kind of line a rich older guy would lay on a teenage model, suppressing his own intelligence and irony in order to spread out before her the wonderful world he would like to give her as a gift....The problem here is that many 19-year-old women, especially the beautiful international model types, would rather stain their teeth with cigarettes and go to discos with cretins on motorcycles than have all Tuscany as their sandbox."[6]

Critics such as Desson Thomson of the Washington Post,[7] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle,[8] and James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave negative reviews, with Berardinelli in particular, calling the movie 'an atmosphere study, lacking characters',[9] and Thompson calling it 'inscrutable'.[7]

Others, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader,[10] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone,[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times,[12] and Jack Mathews of the Los Angeles Times[13] were more positive, with Rosenbaum in particular praising the movie's 'mellowness' and 'charm'.

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 51% based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 5.97/10.[14] On Metacritic the film has a score of 60% based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B-" on scale of A to F.[16]

Box office[edit]

The film had admissions in France of 184,721.[17]


  1. ^ a b c "Io ballo da sola (1996)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Stealing Beauty (1996)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
  3. ^ "Stealing Beauty". Internet Movie Database. 14 June 1996. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Stealing Beauty". Retrieved 2009-09-19.
  5. ^ "Full cast and crew for Stealing Beauty". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 28, 1996). "Stealing Beauty". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Desson (June 28, 1996). "'Bertolucci's Shallow Beauty'". Washington Post. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
  8. ^ LaSalle, Mick (November 8, 1996). "FILM REVIEW – 'Beauty' – It Has Nice Scenery Liv Tyler miscast in Bertolucci's film". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  9. ^ Berardinelli, James (1996). "Stealing Beauty". ReelViews. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  10. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1996). "Stealing Beauty". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  11. ^ Travers, Peter (June 14, 1996). "Stealing Beauty Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 14, 1996). "Stealing Beauty". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  13. ^ Mathews, Jack (June 21, 1996). "Stealing Beauty- Bertolucci's 'Beauty' Searches for Identity, '60s Idealism". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 28, 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  14. ^ "Stealing Beauty". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  15. ^ "Stealing Beauty". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  16. ^ "STEALING BEAUTY (1996) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  17. ^ "Box Office Figures for Jean Marais films". Box Office Story.

External links[edit]