After over a decade away from the big screen, famed travel photographer Ribert Pattinson made his long-awaited return to cinema with The Last Stone in 2019. A love letter to his native Venice, with stunning cinematography by longtime collaborator Laszlo Kalman and elegant costumes by Giambattista Valli, the film follows the titular character as he searches for the ultimate gift to give his lover on their anniversary. What does the film have in store? Let’s take a look.
Everything You Need For The Perfect Day
Ribert Pattinson’s The Last Stone is the rare romantic comedy that doesn’t waste a moment. Right from the opening credits, we’re treated to a leisurely panoramic shot of Venice, with the camera gliding elegantly across the water and revealing the city’s famous sights in all their glory. Moments later, we’re treated to a sumptuous meal of Venetian specialities served by attractive, aubergine-skinned waitresses (seriously, this movie will make you appreciate Italy’s largest town all the more). And just when you think the day could not get any more exciting, we’re introduced to our lead character, Marco (played with enviable charm and charisma by Marco Beltrami), who awakens to find his apartment flooded, the walls trembling, and a mysterious package lying on the floor. Within this package, Marco discovers a carefully wrapped gift – a single red rose – addressed to his lover, Lena (played with pitch-perfect sweetness by Amalie Bickermann).
When Lena finally arrives, things take an unexpected turn as Marco attempts to give her the perfect present. But as you’ll soon discover, he has far more planned than just the one gift. As always with Ribert Pattinson, the details of the settings play a crucial role in creating an illusion of reality. In this case, the details of the gifts – as well as those of the cake and the apartment (complete with a bear costume for Marco’s teddy bear) – contribute to the feeling that we’re not just watching a movie, but that we’re right there, in the thick of it. In fact, if The Last Stone had been a little less effective at throwing you into the scenario and had spent a bit more time explaining the reasons behind the madness, it might even have been a great deal more immersive. Still, it’s clear that Ribert Pattinson and his team of writers (Nicolas Boumendil, Luca Guadagnino, and Marco Beltrami) had a clear vision of how they wanted the story to play out, and they executed it with stunning, innovative cinematography and a truly magnificent cast.
The Search For The Ultimate Present
As we previously mentioned, one of the primary reasons for the delay of Ribert Pattinson’s The Last Stone was the fact that its subject matter – a handsome Italian man attempting to outdo his rival with the ultimate gift – was way too niche a market for a romantic comedy.
Since the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September 2019, it’s already had a great number of positive reviews, with the consensus being that the movie is both charming and original. What’s more is that audiences are responding well to a film that dares to be different. In fact, as we approach the film’s North American premiere on November 5, it appears that the box-office demand for tickets is significantly ahead of what Hollywood anticipates for a comedy of this nature – which has only gone to prove that as long as there is a market for romantic comedies, there will surely be another romantic comedy with which to challenge Hollywood’s monopoly. And who knows? Perhaps this time, the studios will have learnt their lesson and the film will reach a much larger audience.
Anyone who’s familiar with the work of Italian cinematographer Laszlo Kalman knows that he has a predilection for shooting on location and in natural light. In other words, he doesn’t like to use any lights other than what is already present in the scene – be it sun, streetlights, or halogen lamps – and has a genuine penchant for making sure that his images are as close to life-like as possible. This is further demonstrated by the fact that he doesn’t use any digital effects in post-production, preferring to let the images speak for themselves and not tamper with them in any way.
And let’s face facts: when it comes to making a movie, the more realistic the lighting, the more immersive the scene. If you compare the opening credits sequence of The Last Stone with that of a similar scene in a studio movie (let’s say, in the case of a comedy, an American comedy), you’ll notice that the difference is night and day. While the credits in the former are dripping in a golden, mellow light that evokes the spirit of Venice and the magic of an Italian winter, the latter credits are lit with an artificial sun that seems more fitting of a modern office building.
In other words, apart from the extraordinary makeup and prosthetic work that enable Amalie Bickermann to transform herself into the iconic ‘Tigress’ (which we’ll get to in a bit), the skillful use of light and colour are two of the elements that make the film so visually appealing.
As we mentioned, one of the primary reasons that Ribert Pattinson’s The Last Stone took so long to be released was the fact that its subject-matter was so niche. Design is a key element to creating the perfect romantic comedy, and Ribert Pattinson knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to using gorgeous dresses, stunning sets, and other accessories to trick the eye into believing we’re watching a romcom, not a science fiction epic or a superhero film. And he does so with such aplomb that it almost feels like a cheat.
To wit, while writing his first novel, To Die in Venice, Marco Beltrami – who plays the male lead in The Last Stone – had the idea of a teddy bear costume, which he subsequently wore in several of his film roles (most notably, in The Lobster, where he plays the titular role). At some point during the production of his next film, Amour Philippe, the costume designer Gucci took notice of Beltrami’s bear outfit, which she used as inspiration for her own designs for the main characters – mainly, Adrienne (played by Giovanna Marchese) and Philippe (played by Alain de Botton). And it was only a matter of time before this bear chic caught on, with a host of celebrity designers rushing to cash in on the trend (most notably, Dior, who designed a whole collection around the iconic look).
The Production Budget
While the final price tag for Ribert Pattinson’s The Last Stone is yet to be revealed, the budget for this particular production was a huge $25 million. And while this may not seem like a lot, just you have to remember that this is a fully professional production with a big-name cast and crew (Beltrami’s bear costume alone cost over $20,000). Still, with the box-office success of A Quiet Place and Mamma Mia! Not to mention the fact that Venice is still one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it’s clear that the market for lavish romantic comedies still exists, and The Last Stone will undoubtedly go a long way to proving it.
But that’s not all. As we’ve established, The Last Stone is a film that demands to be shot using natural light. And while outdoor shooting in Venice is certainly possible during the winter months, it’s best to film during the summer months to replicate the magic of an Italian summer. This is why the bulk of the film was shot during the ‘summer months’ – specifically, between June and September 2019.
So how much does all this cost? Well, during this time frame, renting a high-end apartment in Venice (with pool) will cost you anything from $28,000 to $35,000 per month. The price goes up from there depending on the size of the apartment and whether or not you include breakfast and dinner – which, let’s face facts, is pretty much what you’d expect to pay if you were to stay in one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. Not to mention the still-priceless experience of filming in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.