Hotel Portofino: An English Period Pleaser
There is something genuinely comforting about a period drama. Perhaps it’s the escapism we experience by looking into an era we don’t live in, or an aesthetic that’s unfamiliar to our own — or maybe it’s the lavish production that often accompanies period pieces, offering endless hours of dreaming and distraction. For most of us, it started in 1981 with ITV’s masterful 13-hour serialization of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, “Brideshead Revisited,” that tells the story of a wealthy, eccentric family who live in a home called Brideshead Castle. Sophisticated and hedonistic, “Brideshead Revisited” offers a glimpse into a bygone world of the English to an audience that was transfixed on the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales the same year. The award-winning score by Geoffrey Burgon is in itself, a masterpiece.
Often overlooked, but of great importance to the period drama genre is the Oscar-winning “Gosford Park,” a feature film made for theatrical release and directed by Robert Altman and written by Julien Fellowes. The whodunit storyline follows a party of wealthy Britons plus an American producer, and their servants, who gather for a shooting weekend at Gosford Park, an English country house. A murder occurs after a dinner party, and the film goes on to present Mr. Fellowes’ view of the “upstairs/downstairs” relationship.
Originally planned as a spin-off to “Gosford Park,” “Downton Abbey” has become one of the most popular period dramas of all time. The series, which first launched in 2010, follows the aristocratic lives of the Crawley family between 1912 and 1926. To date, it’s the most watched television show on both ITV and PBS, and subsequently became the most successful British costume drama series since “Brideshead Revisited.”
And of course, one can’t speak of period dramas without invoking “The Durrells.” The hit drama series is the story of Louisa Durrell, who moves her four children from England after the death of her husband. Life is cheap in Corfu, where the family takes up residence in a wonderfully ramshackle house that lacks electricity or other modern conveniences. The series is loosely based on the autobiographical trilogy written by Louisa’s youngest son, Gerald Durrell.
The latest period costume drama is “Hotel Portofino,” which tells the story of the Ainsworth family that has relocated from Britain to open an upscale hotel on the Italian coastline. Set in the breathtakingly beautiful resort town of Portofino, this new period drama is about personal awakening at a time of global upheaval in the traumatic aftermath of World War I and the liberating influence of Italy’s enchanting culture, climate and cuisine on elite foreign travelers.
As one “Hotel Portofino” reviewer opined, ”Like a perfect gin cocktail, the recipe for a blissful romantic costume drama, as laid down by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory in the 1980s, is quite simple. Pluck several English roses and place them in an Italian hotel — Florence, Venice, Rome, anywhere with gorgeous buildings and sun-drenched vistas. Since roses must have thorns, ensure there are assorted vinegary aunts and bibulous papas, as well as eccentric Americans, local aristocrats and — this last ingredient is most important — servants with British regional accents.”
And as they say in England, “Bob’s your uncle.”
Season 2 of “Hotel Portofino” is in production and will premiere in 2023. Season 1 is streaming now.
This article appears in Holiday 2022 issue of Chanintr Living Download full issue
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