Sunday, April 24, 2011

Movies in Italy: A Little Romance (George Roy Hill, 1979)

First off, it is a bit ballsy, if not foolish and misguided, for Mr. Hill to refer to his own movies in an effort to show the "Hollywood" that stands for American culture to Europeans. It is then not surprising that he includes a depiction of a self-absorbed American director in his film, either as an absolution from his pride or an inside joke that he himself may not have understood. Regardless--notable for popularizing the legend of kissing in a gondola passing under the Bridge of Sighs during sunset to ensure everlasting love, A Little Romance's strength lies not on merely solidifying the romantic allure of Venice, but on emphasizing the child-like naivete of Venice's draw. The two young protagonists--who try all they can to cross the border from France to Italy to seal their love in Venice before getting separated--act like adults acting out childhood fantasies. They are thirteen year-olds talking about Heidegger and worrying about food, but snaps into attention when told by a charming man played by Lawrence Olivier about the possibility of eternal love. This comparison between the cold reality of life and the warmth of a romantic fantasy is mirrored by the difference between business-minded and crowded France and easy going Italy, where even a misfired gun directed towards a spastic priest is met with laughs rather than concern. Italy is portrayed as a place where children can be children and adults are forgiven for being responsible. It could have been an insulting premise, but instead of being about an exoticized idea of Italy, the story is more about the lovers and how Italy is transformed to fit the story these lovers are trying to construct. We don't see "Italy," but the process in which we as foreign visitors construct our ideal world grounded on the stuff Italy is made of. Ultimately, just as it is true for the rest of us, these lovers did not see Verona, only the story of Romeo and Juliet; and they did not see Venice, only the promise of eternal love. Their, and our, earnestness forgives our heady silliness.  

No comments:

Post a Comment