Storms, movies, rain… La Dolce Vita in Rome

Today a storm passed over Rome. Lightning, thunder, and lots of rain. Great. (Except that I wasn’t closeted away in some nice sheltered spot, I was out in the street, trying to be a Good Tourist.

My umbrella (the latest effort) of course turned scared at the first sign of serious rain. Spokes started to wrench themselves from their pathetic cotton confines (needlework attaching them to the waterproof fabric). The fabric started to show signs of strain. The whole thing kept turning inside out, and is now kind of warped. Odd, isn’t it. Seems like a design fault. The umbrella doesn’t cope well with rain.

So I did what any smart tourist would do, I headed for the nearest cinema that shows films in the original language, and spent the early part of the evening watching a movie.

Not a lot of choice, of course. Some of the films screening looked interesting, but their Original Language wasn’t English. I’d probably be okay with the Italian subtitles, but it would be a lot more work.

I watched… Leoni per agnelli (Lions for Lambs). Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise. Bit of an anti-war, preachy movie that was very, very talky. Tom Cruise plays a highly unlikeable Senator determined to provide a new strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan. He asks things like, “Do you want to win the war on terror? Simple question. Yes or No.” In his loud American, preppy voice. Typecasting. I can’t bear Tom Cruise.

Meryle Streep plays a fluttery, yet apparently hard-hitting journalist, who has been invited to the meeting by Cruise who wants her to write an article about his new strategy. An exclusive. Basically, the article would be government propaganda. Streep remembers the heady, idealistic days of journalism in the 1960s and the time of the Vietnam War. She carries a huge guilt burden about the way her network has sold out to ratings, and the way her profession has also sold out in order to stay in favour with people in power.

Robert Redford plays an earnest professor type, trying to inspire one of his brightest students to stop being an apathetic dick and BE SOMETHING. His whole part in the film consists of a meeting taking place between him and the student, who is a smart-alek, over-privileged, highly-annoying young man, filled with smart-arse cynicism about politics and government. This is all highly emotive stuff, this meeting. Incredibly earnest and do-goody and preachy.

All of this is interspersed with scenes about two of Redford’s former brightest students, who enlisted in the army and are now taking part in Cruise’s big new strategy, which is clearly a disaster waiting to unfold.

Didn’t catch who wrote the soundtrack but it was horribly cliched and cheesy. At one point Redford says to his student (in a moment of passionate appeal), ” Rome is burning, son”, and while he says it we hear a growing string tremolo in the background, gradually increasing in volume. Good Lord deliver us, please, from such cinematic banality.

You are probably getting the impression that I didn’t like this film. You would be right. I thought it was horribly base in the way it delivered its messages, it was in a way its own kind of light-weight propaganda, it felt like it was someone’s baby (Redford’s?) that they personally had pushed to get made. Maybe, in the mid-West of America, and in an America heading towards an election, there need to be films like this, maybe it is this kind of film that gets people thinking a bit more about the decisions our leaders make about things like going to war.

But for me, it was cliched, heavy-handed, earnest and preachy, laid on way too thick, with a trowel or a blunt instrument (cricket bat?). I couldn’t help but compare it to Sophie Scholl, the last similarly talk-heavy movie I saw. That film was vastly superior. It was mind-blowing, in fact. She was mind-blowing. The clarity and poise and intelligence with which she responded to her interviewer was utterly compelling.

Perhaps Lions for Lambs could have been similarly compelling. Maybe however, that is not the film it is supposed to be, nor the audience it is intended for. I would say that I am definitely not part of the target demographic.

Anyway, back to Rome. Tomorrow I will go to Porta Portese, the street market that stretches as far as the eye can see in all directions, that is held every Sunday. Hopefully the weather will be kinder and calmer. And SB returns tomorrow – yay!

Day after that, I am definitely on the plane. Homeward bound, I shall be.

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