Monday, July 23, 2012

To Rome With Love

To Rome With Love has about as much to do with Rome as From Russia with Love had to do with Russia or Woody Allen’s previous film Midnight in Paris had to do with Paris. Nevertheless unlike Midnight in Paris whose chief claim to fame lay in portraying stock characters from both the past and present in a sit com setting, To Rome With Love is truly hilarious and inventive, particulary in two of its comic premises. The first concerns a retired impresario with a fear of death (Allen himself) who comes up with the out of the box idea of casting a singing mortician (Fabio Armilliato) in I Pagliacci. The only problem is that the mortician, whose life’s work involves “in the box” solutions, can only sing in a box, i.e. the shower. The ensuing opera house scene literally places the mortician in a shower on stage, with a scrub brush and soap running down his face, as he belts out his arias. But the coup de grace of To Rome is in casting Roberto Benigni as clerk who becomes suddenly and inexplicably the prey of Roman paparazzi. Benigni is dropped almost as quickly as he is discovered when the paparazzi alight upon an anonymous bus driver. There are other strands of plot in the movie which include a Michelangelo who falls in love with an American girl on her way to the Trevi fountain and a Leonardo who falls for an aspiring American actress who likes to quote Yeats and Camus. The movie is characterized by a number of these non-sequiturs that all ignite their own individual brand of farce. Penelope Cruz plays a prostitute, who is mistaken for the wife of proper young man from the provinces (and who in a wonderful piece of Berlusconiana seems to know every Italian businessman in sight) while the proper young man’s wife is swept off her feat by a famous Italian actor. There’s a little bit of Fellini (Nights of Cabiria, Amarcord  and 81/2) in To Rome and a big dose of Midsummer Night’s Dream  as the chaos dissolves and Allen’s cast of characters all land on their feet. 

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