TO ROME WITH LOVE
To Rome with Love is another of Allens European-funded deals. It apparently came together when Italys Medusa Distribuzione offered Allen funding as long as he shot the film in Rome. The film went through several title changes, starting out as Bop Decameron in homage to The Decameron, a collection of bawdy tales written in the 14th Century by Giovanni Boccaccio, before Allen realised that not many people today knew who Boccaccio was. It then then changed to Nero Fiddled, which apparently left people equally confused. The title eventually arrived at To Rome with Love feels like a sudsy 1960s Cary Grant comedy indeed, was also the name of a largely forgotten sitcom To Rome with Love (1969-71) starring John Forsythe where Allen himself admits to being dissatisfied with the final result. The script is clearly comprised of odds and ends of leftover ideas that Allen had in the back of his head. Many of the four stories are slight in conception a man gains fame as an opera singer but only when he can sing in the shower, an ordinary man suddenly finds he is famous and being pursued by paparazzi and questioned everywhere and none of them feel as though they have sufficient meat to extend to a full-length film on their own.
To Rome with Love ended up getting some of the most mediocre reviews of any Woody Allen film of recent. I certainly enjoyed it more than most others appeared to. It is very much Allen in his European renaissance. With the aid of Darius Khondji on camera, he shows the Rome locations with exquisite colour and beauty. (The only complaint about most of these European films is that Allen seems stuck in permanent tourist mode and never ventures too much beyond showing off his visited locations in their picture postcard glory). To Allens favour, he directs at least two of the episodes here all in Italian. The shorter length piece is one that Allen seems happy with and has used in a number of other works Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, New York Stories (1989), Deconstructing Harry (1997). There is a return to many familiar Allen themes Alec Baldwins invisible advisor stepping in to offer mature perspective on Jesse Eisenbergs affair with Ellen Page is a variant on the ghostly romantic advice from Humphrey Bogart in Play It Again Sam (1972) or William Hurts ghostly ex-boyfriend in Alice. There is also the regular theme that seems to preoccupy Allen these days of men engaged in or anguishing about wanting to commit adultery out of the four stories we have here, three of them have characters who engage in affairs with one episode even having two separate storylines focused on the issue.
For all its familiarity and slightness, To Rome with Love works in the good old Woody Allen way. The dialogue especially when it comes to the sparring between Woody Allen and Judy Davis in the opera episode comes with the sharp one-liners of classic Allen that has seemed off in some of his more recent films, while Allen himself, who hasnt appeared in one of his own films since Scoop, is back on classic nebbish, self-effacing form. As always can be expected for an Allen film, the cast is top notch. The show is largely stolen by an unrestrained Penelope Cruz looking luscious and uninhibited as the hooker and Ellen Page who has fun as Jesse Eisenbergs object of desire. (For some reason, Allen lays into her pseudo-intellectualism and cultural namedropping with a passion, although ironically this is something that he himself has been accused of by more than one writer). I have never particularly warmed to Roberto Benignini as an actor whose hapless, awkward child mannerisms seem too much caught up in silent slapstick routines, and expectedly his episode is the slightest. To Rome with Love is lesser Woody Allen but never unenjoyable for all that.
Woody Allens other genre films are:- Play It Again Sam (1972), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), A Midsummer Nights Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), New York Stories (1989), Alice (1990), Shadows and Fog (1992), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006), Midnight in Paris (2011) and Magic in the Moonlight (2014).
(Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Penelope Cruz) and Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 2012 Awards).