Snapshots of the Eternal City


I’m a long-term fan of Woody Allen and as I missed To Rome With Love at the cinema I’ve been waiting for it to appear on iTunes for an absolute age.  I suspect that Woody Allen must be quite enjoying his latter years filmmaking his way around Europe, spending just enough time in each city to identify the poetry, the romance and the life.  Out of the European films; Vicky, Christina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love I think that unfortunately I’m going to say that the latter is my least favourite.  However, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just thought it was a little inconsistent.

To Rome With Love pursues four different stories, and different versions of Rome.  There is the architect who lived there as a student and encounters his younger self in a backstreet, there is the newly married Italian couple who arrive in Rome wide eyed from the country and an Italian business man who one day finds himself to be inexplicably very famous.  Finally, Woody Allen makes an appearance as the retired music producer father of an American girl who has become engaged to an Italian (the father of whom happens to be something of a Virtuoso opera singer – but only in the shower).

I love how the definitive Woody Allen couple appears in every film, just under different names.  Here it is Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Monica (Ellen Paige) who feel a lot like a rehashed version of Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Manhattan, not that I’m complaining.  You’ll find the same intellectual jibes about Freud and some jokes about The Fountainhead, and it’s still a formula that has me giggling the whole way through.  Monica is pretentious and unbearable the same way that Keaton was in Manhattan, and Jack is besotted anyway, just like Allen.  Needless to say the outcome of the relationship is predictable.  I think this ‘snapshot’ of Rome was probably my favourite of the four.

My least favourite was the sketch about middle class average Joe, Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who is shocked to discover that he is famous one day.  It is an amusing farce, especially when poor Leopoldo starts to lose his mind when fame vanishes and his adoring public no longer remembers him.  However, it just felt a little bit tired and not that original.

To Rome With Love was good but not fantastic, but I’ll still be eagerly anticipating Woody Allen’s next film.  I think it would be interesting to see London, but unfortunately I think the grey skies and English stiff upper lip probably aren’t conducive to whirlwind summer romance in the same way that Paris, Rome and Barcelona are.  Allen is a master at painting a portrait of a city and it’s inhabitants, but as always nothing can ever comes close to the majesty of Manhattan.  Perhaps it takes more than a few months on location to get to the heart of a city, perhaps you have to live and dream there for years to really understand it, not just the summer.

Trivia Tidbit: To Rome With Love was originally titled The Bop Decameron, before being changed to Nero Fiddled. Woody Allen changed it when he realized that few people understood the title’s loose reference to The Decameron, a medieval collection of novellas.


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