Woody Allen: love from Paris to Rome
by Camillo de Marco
13/04/2012 - It's not far from Paris to Rome. For Woody Allen, "the most European of American film directors" having been brought up on French and Italian films, it seemed only natural to give tribute to the Eternal City after the City of Light (with Midnight in Paris [trailer]). Perhaps it was only Rome’s turn, especially after London was the backdrop for his trilogy on guilt and punishment, and Spain inspired Vicky Cristina Barcelona [trailer]. Allen has however rejected rumours that other European cities would follow. There will be no Beautiful People in Copenhagen, as his next film will be shot in New York and San Francisco.
It was clear that Allen would use the Colyseum as the backdrop to a new love story from the moment that he announced the first title of his latest film,Bop Decameron. The film is indeed a sort of compilation of stories laced with Boccaccian erotism on a be-bop rhythm, with rapid sequences, improvisations, and harmonic constructions.
Whether Boccaccio or Pier Paolo Pasolini would have liked it, To Rome With Love (the film’s final title) is not only about love and betrayal, but also displays a great lightness, that evokes in turn Sigmund Freud, the vanity of Hollywood actors, fame born from nothing, the mass media system, and show business. Rome, here in light brown tones, becomes the symbolic setting for malicious, capricous, and sometimes cynical, twists in the plot.
Cynical and disenchanted is exactly what great architect John appears to be in the episode that brings together the stars Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Ellen Page (Juno, Inception). John (Baldwin), back in Rome for the holidays, where he lived for a while during his youth, becomes the voice of young architecture student Jack (Eisenberg)’s conscience. The latter is in love with a friend of his fiancée, Monica (Page), a young unemployed actress who hides an incredibly vacuous interior under her sensitive and romantic exterior. Woody Allen himself plays an embittered retired opera director in Rome to meet his daughter’s boyfriend, accompanied by his wife (Judy Davis) who has a Freudian intrpretation for everything. When he discovers that the fiancé’s father (Fabio Armiliato) has an incredible voice, overhearing him singing in the shower, he throws himself into a formidable mise-en-scene of the opera Pagliacci.
The film’s other episodes feature a parade of Italian actors. One episode shows a young couple from the North (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) whose relationship has been shattered by a young high-class prostitute (Penélope Cruz) and a film star and great charmer (Antonio Albanese). As for Roberto Benigni, he plays Leopoldo Pisanelli, Rome’s most normal and boring man until he wakes up one morning to discover that he has become famous, and he is followed around by a hord of paparazzis, escort girls, and television journalists asking him what he ate for breakfast.
While Midnight in Paris was carried by a powerful idea, that of making an author with writer’s block meet authors and artists from the past, To Rome With Love is a little uniform and homogenous, despite a few great moments, and Rome’s beauty is not quite enough to hide its clichés.
(Translated from Italian)