Last night I saw the new Woody Allen film, TO ROME WITH LOVE. I admit to bias here: I like Woody Allen (despite strenuous arguments with Connie Willis, who hates him and last week explained to me why, at length), and I went to Rome in April with Jack and had such a wonderful time that the visit probably colored my reactions to the movie. On the other hand, I disliked LA DOLCE VITA, which featured the same romantic views of Trevi Fountain.
This is a movie about environment, in three senses. First, it's a valentine to the city, which is photographed in loving detail in golden light. Second, it's about the need for certain environments to accomplish certain things: an opera singer can only sing well in the shower. A girl on her honeymoon becomes a wilder and more abandoned person only in situations far removed from her daily life.
Mostly, however, this is a movie about the environment of fame. In the funniest of four interwoven stories, Leopold, a middle-class clerk, wakes up one morning to find himself famous for no reason whatsoever ("You're famous for being famous!") Paparazzi pursue him. Television audiences are fascinated by whether he wears boxers or briefs. He is thronged for autographs. His multiple reactions to this celebrity underscore the other characters' reactions to their fifteen minutes of fame -- the opera singer, the retired impresario, the actress finally offered a part, the girl lunching with a famous movie star.
This is not a perfect movie -- in places Allen is straining too much. But I found it both fun and, weirdly, thought-provoking. I asked the two people I was with if they would choose to be really famous, if they could be. One said yes, one said no. As for me (who just attended multiple events with and for George RR Martin, who must now be shielded from his fans) -- yes.