To Rome with Love
Woody Allen's latest is a joyfully silly tribute to the Italian capital
With his previous features Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen proved himself adroit at translating an American tourist’s view of the most beautiful (and undoubtedly clichéd) aspects of European culture to the big screen. Whereas those two films were infused with a subtle melancholy for all that is lost, To Rome With Love plays as straight farce.
The film is made up of four separate storylines that are intercut, but not interwoven (a possible reference on Allen’s part to the omnibus-type films that were popular in Italy in the 1960s), something which makes it feel a little fragmented at times, and the protagonists have about as much psychological depth as characters from a bad Italian soap opera (Roberto Benigni’s Leopoldo, a man who falls prey to the sudden, unwanted and fickle attentions of the media, is a case in point). Yet none of this detracts strongly enough from the film’s joyfully silly and exuberant tone.
Once again, Allen draws on a precarious concoction of the stereotypical and the insightful, the realistic and the magical, the balance of which he pulls off with a lightness of touch that lesser directors would be incapable of. Highlights include Penelope Cruz’s portrayal of a loud-mouthed prostitute who has to masquerade as a middle-class housewife, Allen’s own turn as a retired (and, naturally, neurotic) theatre and opera director who is full of crack-pot ideas for his comeback and Alec Baldwin’s depiction of a middle-aged man encountering a younger version of himself. The real star of the film, however, is Rome itself. As he did in Midnight in Paris, cinematographer Darius Khondji creates a stunning, light-filled version of Rome that pays tribute to the city’s rich cinematic heritage. Although To Rome With Love may not be ‘major’ Allen, it contains treats aplenty.
Selected release from Fri 14 Sep.