Woody Allen’s cinematic tour of Europe, having taken us to London, Barcelona and Paris, now sets down in Rome. There’s an obvious Fellini tribute in how the movie is framed, à la Roma, with a Roman traffic cop (a thankless job if ever there was one) delivering opening and closing paeans to the city. But the blithe, happenstance surrealism that permeates the film’s several interlocking stories reminded me more of late Buñuel.
Most of the tales involve romance and infidelity, the latter of which is quite unproblematic in Allen’s world so long as it serves as an act of self-analysis that occasions a recognition of one’s secret but not-so-hidden desires. If there is an ethic to Allen’s view of love, it is that anything goes, technically, but that if you are a nice person, there are probably some lines you won’t cross, thus making it acceptable to have crossed the ones you did. If you can deal with that, TO ROME WITH LOVE is a Roman holiday of the imagination, wryly comic and atmospherically buoyant.
Now and then it is hilarious, especially the story that Allen builds around a character who sings opera in the shower, superbly, but can’t carry a tune if he isn’t soaping up. That character aside, the women stand out from the men, especially Penélope Cruz, Alessandra Mastronardi (an effervescent Italian who deserves higher billing than “also starring”), and Ellen Page, who plays her character’s pert, smoky and unintentional seductiveness to the hilt.
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