In the third episode of season two of “The White Lotus,” a group of American tourists visit a site from “The Godfather,” which leads to a multigenerational discussion about patriarchy. (“Men love ‘Godfather’ because they feel vulnerable in modern society,” Albee, a recent college graduate, told his father and grandfather.) But Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Oscar-winning movie isn’t the only movie referenced in Sunday’s episode.
Indeed, one of the stunning moments in which the Aubrey Plaza appears beneath the steps of Noto Cathedral is a snapshot homage to a scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 movie “L’Aventura” starring Monica Vitti (dropped by Jennifer Coolidge in last week’s episode). In “L’Aventura,” a woman disappears, and in the midst of their search for her, her lover and best friend create a love story. According to “The White Lotus” author Mike White, “L’Aventura” is “a very elliptical and mysterious thriller about an existential psychodrama.”
In “L’Aventura” and “White Lotus”, respectively, Vetti and Plaza wander around the same courtyard and begin to feel the eyes of a few dozen men who surround them. Talking about the scene he imitated, says White diverseAs someone who saw it at a young age, I was like, ‘Is this what it’s like in Italy? Do guys like this out there? They’re stark and aggressive with it, and there’s this kind of danger in the air.”
He adds that because this episode of “Lotus” is about “men, women and some classic sexual politics dynamics,” it felt right to “bask on the typical Italian men who come up to a woman on the street.” (While the scenes in “L’avventura” and “White Lotus” are shot almost identically, you can probably guess which one features the explicit remark: “Lots of erotic men in Noto.”)
The idea to honor Antonioni came from cinematographer Xavier Grobet, as he and White were filming in Noto and realized they were standing at the exact spot where they shot L’Aventura. Referring in Episode 3 to this film as well as “The Godfather,” White says he found it appropriate to paint Sicily as an inspiration for classic cinema, both Italian and American.
The thematic similarities between the two films are also not lost on White, who says, “Laventura is as much about a desperate search for the meaning of life as it is about the actual disappeared woman. White Lotus clearly touches on the malaise of the wealthy and that kind of search.” About what it means when you’re relaxing by an infinity pool.”
While the first season of “Lotus” was filmed entirely at the Four Seasons Hotel Maui in the COVID bubble, the second season allowed White to expand the series outside of the Italian hotel and into town. “Sicily is so rich, and I felt it would be a crime not to at least try to expose people to some amazing cultural places, these crazy palaces and Noto as a city,” he says. “There is so much to show off.”
Shooting in the streets of Sicily and neighboring cities was a creative and practical option. “Once we got the shoes from the hotel,” he says. “I knew it would take a series of weeks to go there as we needed to shoot but we couldn’t shoot at the hotel.”
In order to immerse himself in southern Italy, the model moved to Sicily for a few months before filming for the second season began. White wanted to get a better idea of the city and its surroundings because he says, “If you go to Italy, you won’t just stay at the hotel.”
Below, White answers some diverseThe pressing questions so far about the second season of “White Lotus”.
How did you incorporate Jennifer Coolidge’s character into the new cast and location? Do you see “White Lotus” as an ongoing anthology with her character coming back as a complete line?
Since the seasons are different in subject matter, the locations are different, and the cast is generally different, I felt it made sense that someone would be the connective tissue between the two seasons. And if we go to Italy without Jennifer, she’ll be so angry [laughs]. Apparently people loved her, and she’s my friend. So it made sense that it would be Jennifer. With Jennifer, I was like, “If we go to Italy, what do you want to do?” And it was like a scene in the last episode that aired where she was like, “I just want to be on Vespa with a lot of hot guys in sharp suits, trying to impress my cigarette.” So that conversation created the idea of her wanting to have this ultimate Italian vacation. Tania is a fun writing personality, and Jennifer is one of the highlights of my experience on this show as well as my career. So I’m definitely open to continuing with Jennifer, if HBO allows us to continue working in general.
Episode 3 ends with Cameron (Theo James) and Ethan (Will Sharp) partying with Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Granny). Since this season seems to focus primarily on sex and sexual politics, what conversations do you hope viewers have in relation to sex work?
You will have to see how the show resolves itself. But any conversation about sex work is risky and thorny… I’m not trying to be shy, I don’t want to give up on the ending. I don’t look down on sex work, and at the same time, I know that often comes exploitation in sex work. It is therefore important to show, or at least discuss, both sides. I don’t have a moral disapproval of that, but it doesn’t often happen separately from some kind of context that includes exploitation. Usually the people who participate in it do so because they need the money. They don’t do it just because it’s fun. But this is not necessarily always true. Sometimes people get into it. I don’t think Michael Imperioli’s character often acknowledges context [of sex work]… we take [his son] Albee [played by Adam DiMarco] Being able to talk to more complex and ethical aspects, and I don’t think Michael’s character is really attractive. Making that part of the conversation is important.
You’ve said previously that you want the characters in season two to look more natural and “less writing” than they did in season one. How does this affect your process, and what did you feel was particularly replaced that you would like to modify?
Well, I wasn’t necessarily critical of the first season. In season one, I knew we’d be in a bubble in a hotel, and there were all these mandates to keep it a COVID-friendly product. There was more pressure to make the dialogue itself the show. I didn’t have the ability to have a lot of plot twists and a great canvas. The banter was the event. And with all the Twitter talk in Season 1, I didn’t want to do something we actually did. This season, some of the plot twists are where the ideas of the season come from, and less about the actual content of the conversations. It’s a different style. In terms of the characters, I wanted to make them less crampy and let their actions speak for some of the ideas I’m trying to research. The fun thing for me is to make a shape-shifting view and try not to get redundant. You should have enough to make it feel like one piece, but the content – and the look itself – can change somewhat and be new.
In Episode 1, character Aubrey Plaza says she doesn’t watch “Ted Lasso,” which became an instant meme on Twitter. Do you watch “Ted Lasso”?
I… [Laughs] To be honest, I don’t watch Ted Lasso. But I haven’t seen anything. Last year, all I did was show this. Not just Ted Lasso, you could ask me about any show and I might say no.
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