16 September 2012

Woody Allen’s ‘To Rome with Love’

Another year, another Woody Allen film, and after Paris comes Rome. To Rome with Love was going to be called The Bop Decameron, until someone thought better of it. Bocaccio’s Decameron (literally ten days), written about 1350, consists of 100 stories of love in mediaeval Italy so there is a weak connection, Allen’s latest film being about the antics of couples of various ages, some American and some Italian, in present-day Rome but whose paths barely cross. Some of the partners are tempted and succumb but everything turns out ok in the end. The resulting tendency to romantic schmaltz is relieved by some surrealistic strands: an opera staged for a mortician tenor who can only perform brilliantly in the shower, a clerk who has celebrity thrust upon him and then taken away as suddenly as it came.

Penelope Cruz and Ellen Page play female temptresses of two different types and almost inevitably, the wicked being more interesting in drama if not in life, upstage the other actresses, particularly Greta Gerwig, who doesn’t even get a nice frock like Alessandra Mastronardi. Judy Davis makes the best of some good lines as a psychiatrist married to Woody Allen who has cast himself as an unlikely newly-retired opera director. This is Allen’s first appearance in one of his own films since Scoop in 2006 and he seems less convincing than in his cameo as himself in Sophie Lellouche’s Paris-Manhattan. Roberto Benigni provides a good comic turn as the Roman clerk and deserves his prominent place on the poster for the Italian release.

People who aren’t long-term Allen devotees and who liked Midnight in Paris may well be disappointed with To Rome with Love. But Rome now isn’t Paris in the 1920s and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the characters in this film, American or Italian, are not remotely as interesting as Picasso, Gertrude Stein or the Hemingways. Allen's next is back in the US, set in New York and San Francisco:
"It's basically a film about a wealthy New York woman living a very aristocratic existence and then all of a sudden she finds that she has no money," said Debbie Brubaker, a member of the San Francisco Film Commission who is familiar with the production. The character moves in with her sister in San Francisco and meets a man who could restore her financial status, but the relationship fails, Brubaker said. "When that relationship doesn't work out she has to adjust and live more modestly and change her life and accept San Francisco”.

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