Thursday, January 5, 2017

Rome Journal: Last Tango?

Cultural mythologies are created by movies and books. For instance there was the Rome of Fellini’s  La dolce vita (1960) filled with itinerant intellectuals, who chased after women with large cleavages. A whole generation of Italian actors amongst them Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni came to prominence typecast for these roles. These were a little more than kin and less than kind, fallen aristocrats, high class hookers or both. And there was the more down at your heels world which Fellini immortalized in Le notti di Cabiria (1957) in which his wife Giulietta Masina played a lady of the night, who had fallen on hard times. Pier Paolo Pasolini, the director the infamous masterpiece of degradation, Salo (1975), and who knew the Roman underworld, was commissioned to write the dialogue. Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza (2013) paid homage to Fellini's Rome, particularly with respect to the parody of outsized artistic personalities. But does the old Rome with its glamorous white telephones and squalid desperation still exist? Corrupt politicians like Berlusconi might have fit the bill, but he ultimately lacked the profound glamour of a 60's Italian film star. In some senses Rome has become a bit like New York. The world’s oldest profession still plies its trade out in the E.U.R. the area on the outskirts which was the site of the aborted l942 World’s Fair and the futuristic Palazzo della Civilta Italiana. However Rome itself has lost a certain color, as well as danger and despair. Though you are still warned to watch out for pickpockets, Rome is not the wide open city it once was. Of course you pay a price for the fleshpot. It was an Italian who directed Last Tango in Paris (1972), but he might easily have called it Last Tango in Rome.

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