During Woody Allen's European vacation, he has made four stops in London, visited Barcelona, dropped for a short visit to New York City, spent one summer in Paris, and then he had Roman Holiday last summer. All the tourist attractions of the Eternal City are in full display in Allen's film and they are spectacular: the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the Coliseum, and panoramic views of the city from above, the rain at night, and outdoor cafés. Like in Paris' movie before that, Darius Khondji's camera finds unexpected and hidden angles of famous Rome beauty. The sound of wonderful melodic Italian songs and arias are heard everywhere -and what is Italy or Rome without music? Four different stories in which the Romans and the visitors are involved play against this joyous background of Rome glowing under summer sun. It seems that Allen created a mini Decameron. The stories do not overlap, but they have in common Rome and love in Rome to Rome.
Comparison with last year Allen's film about Paris certainly arises, but as Paris and Rome are two very different cities, even though both are famous, beautiful and often serve as a background or even an important character in the movie ("Fellini's Rome," and "Paris, I Love You", for example), so the Allen's movies about Paris and Rome are quite different. The Roman film, in my opinion, lacks rare magic and brilliance of "Midnight in Paris." The reason seems to be in switching from one story to another, and there are, as I've mentioned, four of them. Each is funny and attractive in its own way, but as the whole they failed to produce magic. As the rule, all stories in an anthology can't be on the same level. The story of Leopoldo, for instance, had intriguing premise but then just lost some of its steam.
Definite plus - for the first time in the last six years, Allen is in front of the camera as well as behind it. Allen knows a secret of physical comedy. He can simply stay in the frame, even in the background and keep silent, and his face will express a range of feelings and emotions, the predominant being a mixture of confusion and dumbfoundedness. Some might say that we've seen it all before but I don't mind. Allen is a good comedian who always makes me smile and laugh. And the same can be said of his Roman film. Allen does not do anything new here but the movie is good. For example, the idea of introducing a singer with the great voice who can only sing in the shower was original and smart. The film is funny, witty, beautiful, bright, and very light, feather-light. Its creator is 76 years but you hardly believe it when he sends us on Roman holiday.
My conclusion - any Allen's movie, even average comparing to his best work, is worth watching. If you are a die-hard fan like me, you've seen it already. I've said many times before and I repeat again - even the average Woody Allen's movie is better than most cookie-cutter comedies released by big studios. If you are not a fan, give "To Rome with Love" a chance, you may fell in love with it. This is the first anthology by Allen for many years and I'm sure you'll like if not four by some of the stories. I am personally delighted by the story of the owner of the funeral home, who sang like Caruso and Pavarotti, but only in the shower, to the sound of pouring water while lathering his back. Or, perhaps, you'll like a surreal story of a simple Roman office employee, who one sunny day out of sudden became insanely famous and popular. Moreover, he could not figure out what actually happened and what exactly he did or did not do? Real celebrities and the crowds of the journalists all listened to his every word as the highest wisdom. Or you may click with the story of Jack, a young American architect -student, his girlfriend, and her best friend - a heart-breaker, of Jack's inner voice played by Alec Baldwin. Well, if you cannot stand Allen, I'll let you in on a secret, if you do not know by now. There is also Penelope Cruz in the role of Anna (I think Woody bowed to Anna Magnani's "Mother Rome" and Sophia Loren - Filomena from "Marriage: Italian Style") and it is impossible to take the eyes off her. Anna - is the character from the fourth story which is about newlyweds who came to Rome for a honeymoon from the small town and the cheerful confusion that occurred when the young bride stepped out of the hotel and got lost in the maze of the Rome's streets. If the presence of Cruz in her second Allen's film is still not enough for you, well, then I do not even know what to say. Only that you should choose for your Roman holiday another Rome, not the one that Woody Allen created.
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