Fans of ‘The White Lotus’ spot a brilliant direct reference to an Italian cinematic master

When in Sicily, do as the Sicilians do. Fans of Emmy award-winning HBO anthology series The White Lotus are fascinated by creator Mike White’s shot-by-shot homage to Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni in the third episode of the show’s second season.

After a big sweep at the Emmys earlier this year, White took his troupe of extravagant hotel guests to Italy for the second season of The White Lotus, and Sicily’s immense cinematic legacy has been a huge inspiration.

Jennifer Coolidge’s character Tanya spent an entire day trying to live like Monica Vitti, an icon of 1960s Italian cinema. F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, and Adam DiMarco’s grandfather/father/son trio also visited the set of The Godfather and discussed the film’s themes over pasta.

However, arguably the season’s sharpest reference yet has been Aubrey Plaza walking the streets of Noto while a sea of Italian men gawk at and crowd in on her. Cinephiles have noted that the scene is a direct reference to Antonioni’s 1960 film L’Avventura where the same thing happens to Monica Vitti.

White spoke about this scene with Variety after the episode aired, saying it was cinematographer Xavier Grobet’s idea to recreate the Italian master’s work as they were filming in the exact same location – at the bottom of Noto Cathedral’s majestic stairway.

“As someone who watched [L’Avventura] young, I just was like, ‘Is this what it’s like in Italy? Are the guys like this there?’ They’re so blatant and aggressive with her, and there’s this kind of menace in the air,” White said.

The scene wasn’t just a referential whim, though, as it fits perfectly with the episode’s themes of female and male sexuality. “Lots of horny dudes in Noto,” Plaza’s character Harper says at the end of the scene, perfectly exposing its predatory nature.

The White Lotus airs new episodes every Sunday on HBO. The award-winning first season is available to stream now on HBO Max.

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