Yesterday I got the fun assignment of covering Woody Allen’s presentation of his latest film, “To Rome with Love”, starring Woody himself, Penelope Cruz, and Roberto Benigni among others.
Despite being the “world premiere” Woody personally chose not to let the foreign press into the morning press screening because the film was dubbed into Italian and he did not want us to see it dubbed. Later he explained in a press conference “I don’t like dubbing at all,” But he then added, “it can be a mixed blessing….the man who dubbed me for years, made me into a hero here.”
So I was in the difficult position of trying to cover a movie without having seen it, although I did see the trailer. Here’s the LINK if anyone is interested.
“To Rome with Love” is the latest in a series of European-city movies made by Woody Allen. There was Vicky-Cristina Barcelona, followed by “Midnight in Paris” which won an Oscar for “Best Screenplay” in 2011.
The film is a series of vignettes that take place in Rome in a light-hearted romp through the cobble-stoned, monument eternal city, playing on some stereo-types of the “dolce vita” with the ineffective traffic cop, operatic characters, a sexy escort, and endless sunshine.
It is a bit hard not to notice the stereo-types when Penelope Cruz, playing a high-class escort arrives in the Rome hotel room of the wrong man, busting out of a tight red mini-dress and hops on the bed and announces, “I am here to fulfill your dreams.”
At the press conference, Penelope said she adores Woody because he is “amazing”, “unique”, “patient”, “intelligent”, she then stopped herself saying “I could spend the whole day talking about him, he is one of my favorite directors.” Allen leaned over and said, “oh please continue, you’re just getting warmed up.”
A little personal note here. I often find when I am have to cover a famous person, sometimes the mythical image of them that I carry in my mind is immediately shattered (see my impressions of Madonna in Doorstepping the High and Mighty). It was that way with my first impression of Woody. He seemed grey, tired, weary, lacking verve. Poor guy, he is 76, so it might have been a simple case of jet-lag. Later when I spoke to him on the red carpet I was physically much closer and could see and hear the Woody I recognized from the movies with the quick, dry wit and self-deprecating humor. And I loved looking at him in his iconic square black glasses.
Italians love going glamorous and getting decked out in spectacular floor-length dresses and skyscraper-high, spike heels. So when an April rainstorm sadly forced the red carpet for the premiere indoors, that did not slow the Italians. They all came sashaying past us in the atrium stopping to be filmed and photographed. My cameraman last night, Paolo Lucariello, was feasting his eyes on the spectacularly low cut decollete’-revealing dresses with super-high leg-revealing slits.
Penelope Cruz always manages to be the most glamorous looking woman in the room wherever she is and whatever she is wearing. She wore an all-black dress to the press conference and left photographers swooning, and then had a peach confection with purple tear-drop jewel earrings on for the red carpet.
Earlier in the day, Italian journalists at the press conference pushed Allen a bit for creating a “superficial” picture of Italy. Italy is in the middle of a major economic crisis with the government of current Prime Minister Mario Monti imposing harsh austerity measures, raising the retirement age, and changing laws making it easier to fire employees. This comes after years of a government run my Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who gained a reputation as a big-spending playboy hosting bunga-bunga parties with show-girls and escorts (see my posts on Berlusconi).
Responding to the criticism, Allen fell back on what tend to be American stereo-typical view of Italy declaring that Americans ” have an enormously affectionate feeling about Italy, they think of Italy as country that is enormously warm…it’s a very easy-going place to live, a place that enjoys life and that stands for everything that is very positive about life.” As a low growl of disapproval arose in the Rome press conference, he added, “if I made a film in Sweden, there is a whole other psychology that would permeate the movie.”
Italian actor/director Roberto Benigni immediately rushed to clarify with his own comic version of the recent changes in Italy “At the time we made this film, it was like the Italy described by Allen. Because we had our Prime Minister (former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), there were the escorts, the parties…the sun, now we have rain, there is Monti (current Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti), to sum up, the situation has changed a lot.”
As the hundreds of journalist attending the press conference burst out laughing, Benigni add, “but I don’t want to be a comic sitting next to Woody Allen, because it is like playing the piano next to Mozart.”