Actor/rapper Will Smith listens for the crowd's response during his performance at the annual Wango Tango Music Festival at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, June 15, 2002. A wide variety of performers including Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and No Doubt were featured in the all-day music festival. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)


DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

CAST: Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Page

classification: 13LS

Running Time: 109 minutes

RATING: ****

Take the director and the cast, how can you not go? Sadly, we all know that these days actually it doesn’t mean that much.

What does, though, is that an ageing Woody Allen is mellowing. He still has all the cynicism and the skewed look at life, he plays that man who doesn’t trust the world, but now in his later years, instead of screaming at someone, he grabs his wife’s (in this instance Davis) arm.

It’s what happens when the years you have lived become more than those you still have to live. Even for someone as mistrustful as Allen.

This time he rocks up in Rome and really, he’s having loads of fun. It’s almost like he has pulled out a pad and jotted down all the things he loves about the city.

Of course, his letters are much more interesting than most because he has a mind that imagines, for example, a man who sings beautiful opera, but can only sing in the shower. That, then, is how he has to go on stage, in a shower!

Allen also waves the magic wand and who is your local hooker? No less than Penelope Cruz! I want to live in that world. And even the boy whose eye is wandering, and hey, it is wandering for Ellen Page, is served by the sage advice of Uncle Alec Baldwin.

Now hang on a bit. Don’t go running there with your tongue hanging out because Allen is again making magic. Yes, he is, but “mellow” is the word to keep in mind. This is the kind of story that is sent to a friend in postcard form, as if you’re visiting Rome. So it’s not huge belly laughs, it’s a gentle smile kind of movie. But that’s huge for Woody. He makes you laugh because he takes such a dim view of life. Gentle isn’t usually a word that sits comfortably with this cinematic genius.

His last foray into a world city was when he turned the clock back in Paris and allowed Owen Wilson to take over his persona. It worked like a charm. This time he’s back to speak his mind and he’s doing it himself – brilliantly.

News is he’s back in New York for his next one, but I can’t wait to see what he does with Barcelona, or Beijing, Shanghai, or Sydney and think what fun we could provide for filmmaker Allen if he should ever set foot in Jozi.

But to journey back to Rome. It’s a glorious take on life, in snippets that only the sharpest of wits could provide and if nothing else, Allen has always been that. He has given us some of the best moments in movies, some of the most mem- orable and he’s still doing that.

With another indy director, Almodovar, he has fallen deeply in love with the fabulous Ms Cruz and we’re reaping the benefits. He truly knows how to pick ’em. One wants to see Baldwin as the sage and only Allen in his infinite wisdom would think of doing that.

So if you’re an Allen fan, you will get this one. It’s a love letter to Rome as the title so joyously screams. He is one of those individual filmmakers who does not really care if you do or don’t.

He is not trying to capture the commercial market. As long as he is in control of his cinema until the day he dies, he’ll do it his way.

Some of us will always be there to catch him as swiftly as we can.

If you like… any Woody Allen movies (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Midnight in Paris)… you will like this one.