During our stay in Rome, we visited the Borghese Gallery, the Vatican … and Fellini’s old neighborhood.
As a friend so correctly noted, one can’t visit Italy without making a pilgrimage to the Maestro’s home turf, a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, where, in “La dolce vita,” the zaftig Anita Ekberg bid Marcello Mastroianni, “Come here!”
So, on this muggy August evening, we’re off to Via Margutta, where Fellini kept an apartment with wife Giulietta Masina. We dodge the tourists camped on the Spanish Steps, hang a right at the foot of the steps, and then another right, then a left down a quiet, cobblestone street of upscale homes and galleries.
And who should we bump into? Woody Allen, shooting his new comedy, “The Bop Decameron,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis and ‒ yes, we’ve missed him in front of the camera ‒ Allen himself, this time as a harried father in Rome to meet his daughter’s future in-laws.
At a Cannes press conference, Allen described the film as a broad vignette comedy loosely inspired by Boccaccio’s “The Decameron.”
Holding court for the small crowd of journalists and onlookers as the 76-year-old Allen takes a break between setups: Roberto Benigni. Benigni plays a man mistaken for an Italian movie star and, like a character out of “La dolce vita,” pursued mercilessly by the paparazzi.
Riding high after solid numbers for the Oscar-bound “Midnight in Paris,” Allen still finds himself a prophet in his own land who’s more respected in Europe than here. Which is why his financing these days often comes from abroad. “Bop Decameron’s” relatively chintzy $25 million budget was raised by an Italian company.
Makes perfect sense then that Allen, nearing the end of his career, should visit Fellini’s old haunts (he drew a crowd even at daybreak at the Trevi Fountain earlier in the shoot). Fellini, along with Ingmar Bergman, ranks high on Woody’s list of favorite directors, with his “Stardust Memories” and “Celebrity” acknowledged homages to “8 1/2” and “La dolce vita.”