The prolific movie director has made yet another film, To Rome With Love, in U.S. theaters this Friday.
Starring Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen himself, and more, the film is a series of vignettes about Americans, Italians, lovers, friends, and whimsy.
How does Woody Allen make so many films? What makes a Woody Allen film so Woody Allen? While not all Woody Allen films are the same, these are 9 common elements.
1) A female muse.
From Diane Keaton to Mia Farrow, compelling women have played huge roles in Woody Allen’s films (and personal life). Recently he’s chosen vixens such as Scarlett Johansson.
Penelope Cruz has been his female music for To Rome With Love and his other European films. Is Ellen Page next?
2) New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, hilarious, neurotic male.
Woody Allen has immortalized the anxious Jewish male stereotype by always writing a caricature of himself. Put more negatively in Manhattan:
“He was given to fits of rage, Jewish, liberal paranoia, male chauvinism, self-righteous misanthropy, and nihilistic moods of despair. He had complaints about life, but never solutions. He longed to be an artist, but balked at the necessary sacrifices. In his most private moments, he spoke of his fear of death which he elevated to tragic heights when, in fact, it was mere narcissism.”
Looks like Woody Allen will fill this role in To Rome With Love as a retired opera director.
3) New York. Or another major city.
Major cities must have starring roles in Woody Allen films. Whether in the iconic Manhattan photography or the similar panoramic view of the City of Lights in Midnight in Paris, Allen’s gorgeous cinematography is an ode to cosmopolitanism and the energy of urban life.
Early reviews say that Rome cinematography is the best part of To Rome With Love.
4) Character-based, dialogue-driven scripts.
Never big on special effects or pure visuals, Woody Allen is famous for his hilarious, often philosophical dialogue and strong characters.
5) Existential questions and emotional, moral crises.
The existence of God, the eventual doom of the universe, and unavoidability of death are all recurring themes in Woody Allen’s work. His characters struggle with having no moral compass or emotional capacity in a nihilistic universe, or suffer the consequences of immoral actions. Crimes and Misdemeanors and Matchpoint both have characters trying to get away with murder; all the self-righteous, cynical characters in Manhattan are all having affairs, but all are blind to their own weakness and selfishness; the list is endless.
6) Pseudo-intellectual, slapstick, or absurd humor.
Woody Allen draws much inspiration from Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin.
Looks like the plotline surrounding Roberto Benigni, a bewildered Italian who finds himself stalked by the paparazzi for absolutely no reason, will deliver the slapstick laughs.
7) Sexual psychoanalysis.
Some character will bring up Freudian repression, desire, anxiety, and sexuality.
With all the romantic folly and sex that hooker Penelope Cruz is expected to deliver, To Rome With Love will at least imply these themes.
8) Nostalgic, elegiac meditations on art and love.
Anxiety often masks a deeper longing for something lost or escape from reality in Woody Allen films. The Purple Rose of Cairo is a love letter to the cinema. Midnight in Paris says that we’ll always long for the past. The naive, wholehearted teenager Tracy gives Manhattan all its bittersweetness, as her honest love underscores the cynical, selfish, insecure, failed love of all the adult characters.
To Rome With Love is an ode to Italian cinema that was one of Woody Allen’s major inspirations.
9) Classical, or just classy, music.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere.” As a clarinetist himself, Woody Allen said he uses classical and jazz music to enhance just about any scene in his movies. These classy soundtracks give his films an old, throwback feel.
The soundtrack of To Rome With Love reportedly includes Italian opera such as Tosca and La Traviata, as well as jazz standards such as “Three Times Bossa” by Mop Mop.