Roberto Benigni & Woody Allen 'To Rome with Love' Clichés & Politics + Tribeca Movies

Roberto Benigni To Rome with Love
Roberto Benigni, To Rome with Love

According to English-language reports, Italian critics have given a mixed reception to Woody Allen's To Rome with Love (formerly known as Nero Fiddled and Bop Decameron, and currently known as A Roma con amore in Rome itself). They've reportedly complained that writer-director Allen presents a view of Rome and Italians that is both idealized and stereotyped.

At the To Rome with Love press conference held earlier today, Allen provided quite a bit of idealization (“Rome is a city unlike any other in the world…”), while one of the film's stars, Roberto Benigni, provided a defense of the filmmaker's portrayals. As an example of how real-life Italians are just like Italians in American movies, Benigni claimed that during the shoot, an ambulance whizzing by came to an abrupt halt. Its occupants got out, asked to pose for pictures with Benigni, and then rushed out again to answer an emergency call. “Only in Italy!"

Benigni also said that To Rome with Love should remind Italians of Renzo Bossi, son of far-right Northern League leader Umberto Bossi. Bossi Sr. and Jr., staunch allies of disgraced former Italian prime minister and media billionaire tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, have both found themselves enmeshed in scandals involving the misappropriation of party funds.

“In the film, there are cars, women, and people who are famous for no reason whatsoever,” explained Benigni. “It looks like the [Renzo] Bossi story. However, when Woody Allen shot the film, that wasn't the case: instead it was Berlusconi, the escorts, the parties, Bossi and the sunshine.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Allen had to field questions about Berlusconi, but sidestepped them. Yet, those questions “caused visible discomfort to Berlusconi associate Giampaolo Letta, from Berlusconi-controlled Medusa, one of the film's producers.”

About To Rome with Love, the Italian news agency AGI wrote the following:

“… [T]he Rome described by Woody Allen (and cinematographer Darius Khondji) is truly enchanting. A tribute to the Eternal City, To Rome with Love consists of four intertwined stories. It's a lighthearted comedy that, despite the inevitable cliches, makes you smile, especially thanks to the performances of Allen himself and Roberto Benigni.”

If you read US-based reports about To Rome with Love, you'll think that Life Is Beautiful's Best Actor Oscar winner Roberto Benigni is the only important Italian performer in the film. That isn't true. Here are some of the key (or “semi-key”) players in Allen's latest work: Allen himself, Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Judy Davis, Alec Baldwin, Alison Pill, Greta Gerwig, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alessandra Mastronardi, Alessandro Tiberi, Isabella Ferrari, Antonio Albanese, Flavio Parenti, and veterans Giuliano Gemma and Ornella Mutti.

To Rome with Love opens in Italy on April 20. The film also will open the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 14. Sony Pictures Classics will release it in the United States on June 22.

Robert Benigni / To Rome with Love photo: Philippe Antonello / Sony Pictures Classics.

Penélope Cruz To Rome with Love Alessandro Tiberi Roberto Della Casa
Alessandro Tiberi, Roberto Della Casa, Penélope Cruz, To Rome with Love

Woody Allen, whose To Rome with Love had its world premiere in the Italian capital today, says his next movie will not be set in Copenhagen.

“I don't know where that came from,” Allen told journalists at a press conference for To Rome with Love, “but I assure you: I have not spoken to anyone in Copenhagen, I don't know anyone in Copenhagen, and I have no plans to make a film in Copenhagen.” He added that his next project will be set in San Francisco and New York City.

Regarding his recent films set in various European cities after decades working in New York, Allen explained that “the spirit of London or Barcelona or Paris or Rome is very similar to that of New York. There are cosmetic differences, of course, but the spirit is similar, so it's not so hard to find stories. I would have a hard time finding stories if I was asked to make a film in a rural setting or in the desert. But not in big cities.”

To Rome with Love's international cast includes Allen himself (his first acting gig since Scoop in 2006), Penélope Cruz, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Ornella Mutti, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig, Alec Baldwin, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alison Pill, Alessandro Tiberi, and Judy Davis. The film was previously known as Nero Fiddled.

Earlier this year, Midnight in Paris earned Allen the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award.

Woody Allen quotes via The Hollywood Reporter.

Alessandro Tiberi, Roberto Della Casa, Penélope Cruz / To Rome with Love photo: Philippe Antonello / Sony Pictures Classics.

Tribeca movies

The film lineup for the 2012 Tribeca Online Film Festival has been unveiled. Four world premiere feature selections from the Tribeca Film Festival, and five short films, three of which are world premieres, will be available during the online Festival at tribecaonline.com. Each film will have limited screening windows and capacity. Reservations begin on April 10 for American Express Cardmembers and April 16 for the general public.

Online viewers will be able to vote for Best Feature Film ($10,000 prize) and Best Short Film ($5,000 prize). Winners will be announced at the Tribeca festival awards on April 26. Both Tribeca festivals run April 18-29.

There will also be a “social voting competition”: The feature and short that receive the most Facebook likes will each receive a separate $500 prize.” Those winners will be announced on April 30.

Below is the Tribeca Online Film Festival movies (synopses from the TOFF press release):

Babygirl, directed and written by Macdara Vallely. (Ireland, USA) - World Premiere, Viewpoints. For as long as she can remember, Bronx teenager Lena has watched her mom Lucy squander her life on a series of deadbeat men. When Victor, her mom's latest boy toy, starts hitting on Lena, she sets up a trap to expose Victor for the creep he is… but the plan backfires. Macdara Vallely crafts a heartfelt drama about the emotional highs and lows in the moment between childhood and adulthood.

On the Mat, directed and written by Fredric Golding. (USA) - World Premiere, Viewpoints and Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Achieving greatness in high school wrestling requires a level of devotion unmatched perhaps by any other sport. That greatness has become a yearly expectation at Lake Stevens High, winner of seven Washington state championships in the past 10 years. Narrated by Lake Stevens wrestling alum Chris Pratt (Moneyball), this riveting documentary follows the team over the course of a season as they fight through injuries and academic issues to maintain their school's legacy.

The Russian Winter, directed by Petter Ringbom. (Russia) - World Premiere, Spotlight. Brooklyn-born John Forté was a Grammy-nominated musician in The Fugees at 21 and a federal prison inmate at 26. When his prison sentence was remarkably commuted in 2008, Forté was given a second chance to share his talents with the world. Chronicling his concert tour across Russia, this inspirational documentary takes us on Forté's personal journey—one that's as much about having his voice heard as having his music heard. In English, Russian with subtitles.

Town of Runners, directed by Jerry Rothwell. (UK) - World Premiere, Viewpoints. Over the past two decades the small, rural Ethiopian town of Bekoji has been the unlikely home to numerous Olympic champion long-distance runners, whose athletic success has paved the way for a generation of young Ethiopians searching for a better future. With a keen artistic eye, TFF award winner Jerry Rothwell (Donor Unknown) follows two teenage track hopefuls who face the challenge of growing up and striving for greatness in a developing nation. In Amharic, Oromo with subtitles.

The short films are:

BFF (World Premiere) Directed / written by Neil LaBute. Jack and Jill have been “best friends forever,” and when Jill suspects that her boyfriend is cheating on her, Jack offers to help her.

CatCam (New York Premiere) Directed by Seth Keal. German engineer Jürgen Perthold was intrigued about where his newly adopted stray, Mr. Lee, disappeared to for days on end, so he developed the CatCam to help solve the mystery.

Scenes from a Visit to Japan (World Premiere) Directed and written by Joel Schlemowitz. An experimental film invoking diverse cultural landscapes, suggesting a collective struggle of humanity between apocalyptic visions of the past, present, and future, and the redemptive power of the human spirit.

Transmission (International Premiere) Directed and written by Zak Hilditch. Following a deadly pandemic that has decimated the world's population, a father drives his nine-year-old daughter from the west coast of Australia to the safe zone.

Doggy Bags (World Premiere) Directed and written by Edward Burns. A young man suspects the girl he is dating to be hiding a secret after she routinely orders massive amounts of food to go. Produced by American Express as a result of the 2011 My Movie Pitch contest. This film is ineligible for awards.

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