Author: Harvey Karten


Adultery is easy; comedy is hard. This is aptly demonstrated in Woody’s Allen’s billet-doux to Rome, formerly titled THE BOP CAMERON. In putting across an expensive production beautifully shot by Darius Khondji amid Rome’s cobblestone streets, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps, Mr. Allen is in top form showing how delicious is the violation of the Seventh Commandment. As a movie to tickle audience funny bones, the film succeeds sporadically, but when it does, TO ROME WITH LOVE rises to the top.


Rape is unfortunately common enough when soldiers occupy a foreign nation or defeat hostile people of a different clan or tribe. A Bible teacher once told a friend that in ancient times, rape was a normal by-product of war that was expected by the victimized population as, after all, soldiers “are tired and tense and rape provides a relief.” More recently we hear about the Rape of Nanking and countless other atrocities of this nature administered by conquering forces against their enemies.


“What do we want? Fulfillment! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Fulfillment! When do we want it? Now!” Now there’s a street demonstration that could theoretically bring out more petitioners than a labor dispute would attract since, when you come down to it, most Americans are making a decent living and not working in a Nepalese sweatshop. They do not urgently need a better standard of living but a better standard of life. Exploiting the huge numbers of folks who are not necessarily neurotic but eager to try every means to become fulfilled (again, the major goal in life of most Americans whether they know it or not), we have armies of psychotherapists of every ideology and, in a more exotic vein, Indian gurus.


During one of the golden ages of sci-fi pictures, the 1950s, the principal theme often spoken by scientists at the conclusion was “Maybe we were not meant to tamper with nature.” You’ll find this theme in such (sometimes laughable) films as THE THING, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, NEANDERTHAL MAN, TARGET EARTH and a few gems from Abbott and Costello.


Simply put, BEL AMI, which means “good friend,” is about a man who rises to the top by, well, rising to the top. An empty-headed fellow in the Paris of 1890 finds that his one and only attribute, his pretty-boy good looks, is the only skill he needs to acquire wealth and celebrity. He does so by manipulating a group of upper-middle-class women, each of who reacts to him in a special way but all of who fall prey to his powers of seduction.


If you’ve ever been dumped (meaning if you’re not a hermit living in a cave in Afghanistan) you already have a “hook” through which you can approach this romantic comedy. Filmed by Swedish cinematographer Jakob Ihre in various New York City neighborhoods including my own area of DUMBO, this urban story involving people who are comfortably middle class and of artistic bent could be mistaken for a Woody Allen project. What’s more its’ star, the lovable Greta Gerwig, will appear in Mr. Allen’s upcoming movie TO ROME WITH LOVE, opening June 22nd.