Rome

Another Perfect Movie – Roman Holiday

I always say that Casablanca is the best film I’ve ever seen, and that still stands, but Roman Holiday, in its own genre, is just perfect. It has the perfect actors (Audrey Hepburn is always perfect, of course, but Gregory Peck is good for this one, too), the perfect script, the perfect setting and even–though your heart bursts for it to end differently–the perfect ending.

In a world saturated with romantic comedies constructed on the shoulders of this giant classic, it’s tempting to minimize it, but when you remember it’s from 1953, you can’t really pull it off. This is the one that gave us the formula, moving the genre out of screwball (I LOVE screwball comedy, and Bringing Up Baby is a beautiful thing) and into the modern idiom. Of course, if this one was filmed today, the producers would chicken out and change the ending, because audiences (and humanity at large) no longer expect to be treated like adults.

But get a hold of a copy of this one and watch it. Apart from the lack of cellphones which would have obsoleted the camera stuff, you’ll feel like it was filmed a couple of years ago, and wonder why, with this shining example, romcoms aren’t all brilliant nowadays.

The problem with a movie like this is that it’s tough to find anything to criticize or discuss in depth. The thing I didn’t like was that they clearly say “Introducing Aubrey Hepburn”, when I’d spotted her in The Lavender Hill Mob. That’s it. That’s the extent of my complaints about this one.

Now, as you know, I’m not a professional film critic. I’m just a writer who watches movies from a randomly chosen list for fun. But I can usually spot stuff I dislike. Not this time.

I’m sure professional film critics or people who think we should judge old films by today’s social morality will be able to find fault, but I just enjoyed the hell out of it.

Go watch it. Or watch it again.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose own forays into romance are more likely to drop over the edge into steamy crime romance than romcom. His novel Timeless is a good example. You can check it out here.

A Couple of Hours in the Eternal City

Every once in a while, I enjoy grabbing an tourist book from my parents’ collection.  You know the kind I mean: the ones sold in shops aimed at tourists and museum gift shops in the major travel destinations.

They’re usually dismissed as fluff for the tourist trade, but the truth is that they are equally often well-researched information sources with unexpected depth.  A couple of years ago, I read the one about Florence which surprised me because it was a spectacularly in-depth history of the golden age of the city and well worth reading.

ROME THE VATICAN AND THE SISTINA - Sergio Cartocci

The Roman volume in my parents’ stash is more in line with what one would expect.  A well-written intro to each major attraction followed by a number of well-captioned photographs.

This particular volume is worth the price of admission because it covers is great detail the sistine chapel and Raphael rooms in the Vatican even though it is less concerned with the rest of the city and pretty much says nothing about Roman history in general.

It serves best as a record of how these paintings looked in the early eighties (they have since been restored) and as a repository of pictures of Rome in the late sixties.  Wonderfully atmospheric, reasonably educational but–confirming the touristy stereotype–perhaps not as much depth as one would prefer.

Anyway, if you collect books on Rome, this one is interesting for the Vatican painting sections.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose love of travel is reflected in all his work, but perhaps most particularly in his ebook thriller Timeless, the bulk of which takes place on Mount Athos in Greece (a monastic hub which even in the modern day doesn’t allow women to set foot on it… which is bad news for the female main character) and southern Italy.  You can check it out here.