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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"To Rome with Love", Allen's postcards from Italy

To Rome with Love

I owe too much to Woody Allen in terms of "cultural education". The way I understand cinema, my interest in some literature, and even more important, a sense of humour and in certain aspects, a certain view of life, that we more or less share or says a lot to me.  So it will take a major landslide for me to miss a new film of him. It almost came in the form of the awful "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger", but last year's "Midnight in Paris" brought us back my old great master and buddy.

Honestly, wasn't expecting a lot, so I can't say I'm disappointed after watching it. On the contrary, for quite a while, the film is enjoyable, and despite its extremely lightweight scope, it works. As it is almost mandatory with Woody, laughs are awaiting the viewer (many reserved for his own, eternal paranoid character).

"To Rome with Love" also benefits from the "touches" of surrealism, something he explored with brilliance on "Midnight in Paris" and a recurring element of his filmography. All four stories have an element of surrealism on it: being the impossible situations (the Benigni story, his own, the one about opera and death, and Alec' Baldwin, where past meets present) or the interaction between unlikely characters (the young couple arriving to Rome). Topics as fame (and its incomprehensible, ridiculous logic) and the pass of time are present, along with sex and of course, love, all through the perspective of a surreal comedy.

But the problem is that Allen has dealt with these topics throughout his extraordinary career, so there's little to be surprised about, aside from the surreal situations itself. After the "shock" of the odd moment happening in the film, there's not a lot to highlight going on. So at the end, I had the feeling the four episodes have all their great moments but are somewhat underachievements, and the overall result, although pleasant, is forgettable.

Another negative factor is the length of the film, something that has never been an issue with Allen. The two hours are unnecessary and weakens the whole affair. Several scenes, quite a collection of postcards from the "eternal city" are just there for the sake of make a tribute of the gorgeous landscape of Rome (a view that looks completely taken from old movies from 50 years ago by the way). I'm pretty sure that without them (and the annoying music) the film would have been much more dynamic and better closed.

This is an "operetta" film, sort of homage to Italian Cinema, and as the genre allows, there's space for going a bit "loose" and "crazy". But there's no balance between characters. On the ones that light up the scenes in which they take part are Penelope Cruz, (she steals the show, it's almost her episode) Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni (perfect as Mr.Pisano), Ellen Page and Allen itself (Judy Davis and Jesse Eisenberg are ok too). But they are not enough to balance the amount of roles that are underused. Some characters, like the ones played by Greta Gerwig, Flavio Parenti, Alison Pill are looking even a bit silly. And the situations are also uneven. Quite a few are over extended (the opera moments, for instance), the most "serious" (Baldwin's) one would benefit from some more depth. They work as jokes but loose part of his potential as the joke keeps going.

So, there's a lot of fun and enjoyable moments/situations on "To Rome with Love". But they don't mix together as they should. Come on Woody! You have been capable of doing so much more dozens of times before with such stuff!

SCORE: 5,5/10

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