Our Crowd

A Night Out with Casa Dragones and Armani

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tuesday was a bitterly cold evening in New York, but luckily I was able to stay warm and cozy—both literally and figuratively—with some of the greatest delicacies our city has to offer. Early in the night, Bertha Gonzalez and Bob Pittman, founders of the bespoke tequila Casa Dragones, hosted an intimate soiree to celebrate San Miguel de Allende’s selection as the number one city in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. The fête was held in Bertha’s loft-like apartment in Chelsea, and among the guests were San Miguel mayor Mauricio Trejo, Guanajuato governor Miguel Marquez Marquez and Tarajia Morrell. Tastings of tequila were passed around, natch, whilst hors d’oeuvres like fatty tuna and short ribs en croute were prepared in the open, chefs-like kitchen. While this oenophile has never pretended to be a tequila expert, the product’s smooth taste and crispy finish perfectly complemented the yummy yet creative bites—at least according to these taste buds.

After a healthy bit of mingling and imbibing, Bob Pittman gathered all of us guests for a toast to San Miguel, a town he deemed “magical” with a “great community.” The festivities continued at nearby Bar Americano; however, I was due at the Bryant Park Hotel for a special, Giorgio Armani sponsored screening of The Great Beauty, the latest—and thus far most acclaimed—film in the oeuvre of 43 years young Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino. Essentially, the movie is a character study of a 65 year old Jep Gambardella (a soulful Tony Servillo), a writer who is perhaps more of a dilettante, or man-about-town, who is searching for that elusive extra meaning in his life, and striving to cling on to his youth, while simultaneously denying that he is trying to do any of those things. Rome serves as the backdrop for Jep’s odysseys, and the city is practically a fully realized character in itself, thanks to the dazzling, and oftentimes witty, cinematography of Luca Bigazzi.

The film debuted at Cannes, played at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is now Italy’s official submission for the best foreign language film category at the Oscars. Comparisons to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita have been widespread, although Sorrentino had his own, somewhat quirkier take on his labor of love: “I don’t speak English very well,” he told the select audience before the film was about to start, “but I hope that you laugh, because the movie is mostly a comedy for me.” He continued in somewhat self-deprecating fashion: “The film is about many things, so I hope that you will find one thing about it that you like. The movie is also long,” he joked “so it is good that you are seeing it before dinner.”

That said dinner was at Armani/Ristorante, the ever-chic trattoria tucked upstairs at the brand’s flagship store on 56th and Fifth Avenue. Hosts and guests the likes of Grazia D’Annunzio, Sonia Nassery Cole, Pilar Crespi, Count and Countess Nuno Brandolini, Priscilla Rattazi, Jennifer Creel, Eleanora Kennedy, Liliana Cavendish, Judd Hirsch, David Chase, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, William Becker and Ghislaine Maxwell took the short taxi ride uptown and cozied up at the long tables and circular booths for a luscious dinner of egg yolk filled ravioli, chocolate fondant and tiramisu.

As the evening was winding down, Janus Films president Peter Becker thanked everyone for coming and supporting the film, which opened on Friday (November 15) exclusively at Lincoln Plaza, “We need to send as many people there as possible.”

“The people we send there don’t have to be Italian, right?,” a guest a few tables over from me quipped.

“We usually don’t acquire new films,” Becker explained to me in a private follow up conversation. Janus Films, after all, is the progenitor of The Criterion Collection, the grand poobah of bringing classic films and commentary to DVD. I asked Becker if he thought there were still any films out there begging for the Criterion treatment. Taking a few moments to make sure he wasn’t giving away any scoops, he reminded me that Criterion will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. “The first movies we released were Citizen Kane and King Kong, back in 1984, and we would like to do that again. With that first commentary track, we had no idea the monster we had created”—pun intended.


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by Debbie BancroftPhotographed by Griffin Lipson and Hunter Abrams/BFA.com