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Bop Decameron (alias To Rome with Love) by Woody Allen

December 23, 2012

Bop Decameron was the working title of the film we know now as To Rome with Love and when you see the film it’s easy to realize it would have been a fitting title, we have four stories in the movie and though they are part of the same film they never interlock, the only connection being they are set in Rome: having Rome in the title probably helped Woody Allen to receive funds for the film from all the Italian institutions we see mentioned in the end credits. Decameron would have been an homage to Italian culture and the actual film is an homage to Italian cinema, there was nothing similar in the former European adventures of Woody Allen and though it was already known his love for the works from Cinecittà – just think of Small Time Crooks – To Rome with Love demonstrates a surprising deep knowledge of commedia all’italiana by mister Allen, even in the choice of the soundtrack! Amada mia, amore mio by the Starlight Orchestra seems to come out right from the movies from the Seventies starring Lino Banfi, one of the many minor stars of the genre, mainly unknown outside of Italy.

The four stories – as it is customary with the most recent part of the Woody Allen opus – are new versions of familiar Allen characters and themes and it’s quite curious to note that they work the same way their forebears did. Celebrity has a bad reputation and the episode echoing it here – the one starring Roberto Benigni – is the weakest of the film by far, while the brilliant Bullets over Broadway finds a new impersonation of Cheech here in the episode starring mister Allen himself alongside – real-life world famous tenor – Fabio Armiliato: Armiliato’s character is an undertaker so it’s funny to notice that he is in the same line of work of Cheech/Chazz Palminteri. Being a potpourri of Woody Allen themes we naturally find a magic realism episode too: Alec Baldwin stars in it and while the episode with Armiliato is funnier, this one is probably the best on cinematic terms, Baldwin plays an aging American architect who’s back in Rome where he lived as a student and who left there memories of the heart, he meets a young architect who – coincidence! – lives now in the same house he lived in his younger days and from this moment onward Allen gives us no way to understand if what we see is a dreamlike sequence where Baldwin relives his youth or Baldwin’s character becomes a sort of imaginary mentor to the young architect.

To Rome with Love is the 45th feature directed by Woody Allen, so it cannot be a surprise he is repeating himself, most artists – even the ones we call geniuses – exhaust their inventiveness long before producing a similar amount of work, Allen went from Bananas to Manhattan, then from Zelig to The Purple Rose of Cairo, then from Another Woman to Bullets over Broadway and along the way he produced a lot of high quality films, then he stopped going forward and started echoing himself, nonetheless Allen Stewart Konigsberg has a unique talent for writing, and even now some of his best moments are worthier than entire filmographies of certain new directors in town, so: keep ’em coming, Woody!

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