The Locarno International Film Festival enticed plenty of A-list talent from Harrison Ford to Daniel Craig this year. But screen siren Claudia Cardinale drew the real cinephiles, when she collected a lifetime achievement award in the town’s Piazza Grande, recognising an illustrious career as the face of the Italian new wave. Born in Tunis, Cardinale was discovered after winning The Most Beautiful Girl in Tunisia contest aged 17 – the prize was a trip to Venice Film Festival. Launched as an Italian Brigitte Bardot (“BB” versus “CC”), Cardinale’s pivotal year came in 1963, with two dream roles; as Fellini’s “perfect woman” in 8 1/2, and as Angelica in Visconti’s Sicilian epic The Leopard. AnOther found her chatting to gathered press and fans in Locarno – the now 73-year-old had appropriately enjoyed dinner the night before at the Visconti family castle which still stands in the lakeside town. “In 1963 I was blonde for Fellini and brunette for Visconti,” she remembered. “That was really an unforgettable experience for me, but also for Italian cinema. I had to commute between the sets of those two great films, and it gave rise to a certain rivalry between Fellini and Visconti. They were opposites of each other; with Luchino there was a rigorous theatrical dimension, with Federico there wasn’t even a script, you had to let go and improvise.”
Cardinale went on to play the prostitute-turned-homesteader in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West and later opposite Klaus Kinski’s in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. Her elegant white ball gown in The Leopard was created by celebrated costume designer Piero Tosi and is currently on display in Turin, alongside Marilyn Monroe’s Ferragamo shoes and Anita Ekberg’s iconic dress from La Dolce Vita, in the exhibition Fashion in Italy: 150 Years of Elegance. Sadly not on display is the tiny black skirt Claudia Cardinale chose to meet the pope at St Peter’s Basilica in 1967 – five days later the Vatican denounced the miniskirt.
Text by Hannah Lack