Zeffirelli Forever: the Five Best Films by the Italian director

A refined, well-read, highly educated and non-conformist artist, the Italian opera, theatre and movie director Franco Zeffirelli left us at 96, this past June the 15th.

Director, screenwriter and set designer for both opera and cinema, a pupil of Luchino Visconti (and partner), Franco Zeffirelli often felt a foreigner in his own home. Zeffirelli’s films are mostly international productions. The major international actors worked with him, from Mel Gibson to Charlotte Gainsbourg, from William Hurt to Judi Dench. Zeffirelli was inspired by the Bible, Shakespeare’s plays and poems, the great classics of Western literature.

Zeffirelli’s most important movies are listed below

La bisbetica domata (1967) [The taming of the Shrew]

Franco Zeffirelli hired the couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to bring to the big screen Shakespeare’s comedy set in late 16th-century Padua, shot in English. Lavish costumes and sets are paired with a sparkling pace. It was a commercial success. Two Oscar nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, three David di Donatello awards.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

This film by Zeffirelli won two Oscars for photography and costumes. It is an excellent transposition of the famous Shakespearean play. Another international production for Franco Zeffirelli who hired the young British actors Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. Sublime the soundtrack by Nino Rota. A great public success, all over the world.

Fratello Sole, sorella Luna (1972) [Brother Sun, Sister Moon]

The film is about the life of Francis of Assisi. “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” conquered the general public. Francis was played by the English actor Graham Faulkner, who then disappeared from the industry. Alec Guinness played the role of Pope Innocent III. David di Donatello as best director to Franco Zeffirelli.

Jane Eyre (1996)

A fairly faithful translation for the big screen of the love story of the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë, this Franco Zeffirelli’s film involved Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane Eyre, William Hurt as Mr. Rochester. Here the Italian director is more essential and intimate than his usual. Another David di Donatello for the costumes this time.

Un tè con Mussolini (2002) [Tea with Mussolini]

To some, a light drama, the film is without a doubt an interesting story with great costumes, landscapes (under the Tuscan sun) and sets. The film is partially autobiographical. Set in Italy in the 1930s and ‘40s, the protagonist (a young Zeffirelli) struggles to assert his independence and find his way to art. With Maggie Smith, Cher and Judi Dench.

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