To Rome with Love

Enthusiasm alert: Well folks, some of you are aware that I suffer from bouts of enthusiasm. In the cold light of day, perhaps things don’t look so good. So here I am blown away by something I’ve just seen. But then I’m on a plane travelling across the greatest ocean in the world sitting here in a cocoon with the wind wooshing by at 900 kms. I’ve had a delicious dinner of Indian rice and butter chicken aboard Air New Zealand. (I’m in economy, but it was delicious nevertheless). And I’ve had three glasses of wine.

So perhaps I’m wrong. But I’ve just watched Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love”. So far Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Naomi Wolf in sheep’s clothing have managed to orchestrate for public consumption whatever Stage They’re Going Through from adolescent girls (Naomi) to suburban neurosis (Betty) to middle aged Have it All woman to retiree (Betty). Good luck to them. I haven’t read much of their books, but I’m sure they’re OK.

But Woody Allen has just done it with much more humour and artistry. We’ve had Annie Hall and Manhattan and then a string of hits and misses of middle age, and now with “To Rome with Love” we have a masterpiece of comedy surely equal to Chekov. Well to tell the truth I wouldn’t really know. Who am I to measure and equate Chekov and Woody? Just a schmuck at 35,000 feet. I wouldn’t know. But I recommend To Rome with Love unreservedly as an hilarious comedy and a great work of art.

I’m in my fifties (alas and double alas), and it appeals to me from that vantage point. Woody’s in his seventies. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, I don’t know if you’ll be that impressed – though it’s a good film in my opinion nevertheless. But it resonated with me at every level, humour, intellect, soul.

But go and see it and tell us what you think.

Postscript: you can read an insufferably pretentious review of it here, by someone who thinks that reviewing a film involves little more than showing how well read and viewed you are by ‘decoding’ all its allusions. I’m no expert in film but I’d say the allusions to other filmmakers are atmospheric ornaments. The story’s the thing, and its presentation. Here’s another review – this one as off point as the first but also at least clear in its dislike of the film. Both these reviews take what I think of as one of the best scenes in the film as a ‘joke’ – a man singing in the shower. It’s not a joke guys, it’s a metaphor. It’s the pinnacle in which utter ridiculousness provides the keyhole through which some genuine achievement occurs. Anyway, what can one say. All can say is that I was moved.

Postscript II: by the way, the trailer is not a good sampling from the movie leaving out the best scenes, particularly the opera scenes.

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Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
11 years ago

1. Thanks for the recommendation. A new Woody Allen is always a treat
2. You are far too quick to call people out as ‘pretentious’. Methinks a motivated foible is at hand.
3. Trailers are ads. Only fools watch ads by choice.

11 years ago

have managed to orchestrate for public consumption whatever Stage They’re Going Through

No wonder I never get any of them, especially Allen, and no I don’t get the Rolling Stones either.

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
11 years ago

@Nicholas: Can’t offer chapter and verse, but I remember reading something similar from you here previously. I think I commented (and hope it was more-or-less polite). Perhaps I’m too quick to label people too quick to call people out as pretentious.

On the review at hand: it’s certainly clumsily-written, but that seems de rigeur (pretentious, moi?) for newspapers these days. But pretentious? There are a few director/film references. For anyone with a passing acquaintance with 20th C European film, it’s hard to talk about Allen without getting in a mention of Fellini (the obeisance is so clear). And the unlikely multi-stranded format, chosen by an American director for a film set in Rome, surely invites comparison with that French calls the “Italian omnibus” tradition?

It’s entirely natural that talk about films, books, etc invites progenitor allusions. A segue into pretentiousness is suspected when it seems like someone’s doing it to impress rather than elucidate. But it’s about as likely that a critic would try to impress upon the reader their film knowledge by mention of Fellini as that a books reviewer would by reference to Dickens.

Would it be better for a reviewer to pretend the film under review was the first they had ever seen? Why would we read their output in that case?

11 years ago

Good luck to them. I haven’t read much of their books, but I’m sure they’re OK.

But Woody Allen has just done it with much more humour and artistry.

Ha ha. I haven’t read them but Woody’s better (because books with a political aim are entirely comparable to Allen movies? Wut?). That whole paragraph about Friedan, Greer, Wolf is completely out of place. Your enthusiasm is delightful, the fucking massive chip on your shoulder about feminism, less so.

kim serca
kim serca
11 years ago

Yr in yr fifties? With yr remarks about feminist writers, sounds more like yr 70s, at least. So, you haven’t read these writers, but you feel confident to bag them as simply writing their lives, rather than writing about the world they lived in? You can write productivity reports until 2100 Nick, and you’ll never write anything as influential, perceptive, ground-breaking or sharp-witted as the feminine mystique or the female eunuch. what a nasty bitter misogynist set of remarks, not something i expect to see at club troppo…

john r walker
11 years ago

If your talking to somebody in a bar and you ask them what they think of ‘x’ and he/she then spends the next hour talking about his or her self… you have met a typical critic.