la dolce vita

A Fashion Store in Milan, Italy

Mario drove as though we were given the free use of a runway and halted—in downtown Milan, at a stop-sign before the imposing Central Station made whiter with a heavy moonlight fallen upon it. I knew these seconds were all I’d get to see it this evening, but I did what I wanted: I verified that it was possible to send from the Hotel Gallia a shot clean into a man making a speech before the Station; so Umberto Calvini, who knew he was being hunted, died foolishly. One who possessed such wealth should have obtained better security.

Next day I had time to go just by myself to the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. I can tell you it is not possible to exchange in the Galleria any material surreptitiously, however deft the operatives might be, even the police and the master-crooks: people are people-watching every moment, standing in the aisles, seated in the cafes, walking idly in an endless stream, looking at one another, looking, looking. But The International is only a movie, and Tom Tykwer has succeeded in creating the best display so far—on film—of the magnificence of the location.

Clive Owen didn’t dress well any time in the movie, and in Milan his action is so close to Montenapoleone. All the best brands are on the street and in the streets close to it, streets like the via Spiga. The stores (each a piece of unique art; every window a display of creative dexterity) were empty, and I suspect they are always like that, because maybe those who can afford the dresses and the other accoutrements in those stores don’t need to go to the stores. They may merely ask for the goods to be brought home for consideration.

The stores that were a notch below were the ones I went into, where they have at the door tall African men dressed in black. The men possess great size, but no authority, and are a handsome ornamentation at the door, and when they say buona sera or buon giorno you can see that any strength their voice might have had is now smothered.

I haven’t told you about the conversation with Mario before the Central Station. Before we spoke we had been silent for a time, and also, Mario had fine wine in him, and it was working its way up, and I could see he was as much in the clouds as I was that breezy night. His window, and mine, were open. I knew I’d sound foolish, and in spite of that I told him I felt like I was in a Fellini movie. “Yeah,” he said. “Have you seen Amarcord?” Yes, I told him, though I had in mind la dolce vita, and the Trevis Fountain. “Ah!” he said. “Think of that! A man from India has seen Amarcord and he likes it! Fellini is…I tell you…he is universal!” I told him Amarcord is more than an Italian movie, that it is a human experience profoundly depicted, feeling silly about telling such a thing, but what the hell, there was all that moon in me, and it was proving the effect a moon like that is said to have on the human.

But Mario seemed to like immensely what I said. The effect was in full force upon him too, and he drove past my hotel with gusto, my gentle prodding that we’d arrived drowned in the vroom. He is a very good man, and would not end his apologies. He needn’t have apologized; the hopes he expressed for better business were enough to cap the long day; and I insisted and, with air splashing about my face, and my steps so light, I walked to my hotel, under that moon.