To Rome with Love and Holy Motors: airline in-flight entertainment is better than it used to be!

Soooo, as we all should know by now, I made my way to Australia via NYC which meant a lot of time was spent on planes. As is the norm, I spent a large amount of time viewing films that were available in the in-flight thing facing me.

I have to admit, I have been flying since I was about 1 years old as my parents and I moved from Dublin to Boston in the early 1980s and then periodically on our way to and fro over the next decade until we came home to the North to settle in the Paris of North Armagh, Lurgan. During that time films were normally projected onto a screen much like at a cinema and you would have to hope that someone was not bigger than you so you would have an unrestricted view of the film showing.

Nowadays, we have fully integrated consoles where we can personalise our viewing experience to our own tastes, whether it is listening to days of music (Iceland Air is particularly good for this), playing games (Aeroflot’s chess is quite testing) or watching independent art house cinema (Qanatas) you can watch, play or listen to nearly anything that tickles your fancy.

I opted to watch lots of films owing to the huge amount of time I would be in the air (I left NYC at 6.30pm on a Saturday and arrived in Sydney at 9.30am on a Monday) and my inability to sleep soundly on a plane without the aid of a prescription. The four films I remember viewing include a firm favorite of mine ‘The Deer Hunter‘ starring Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken for which he received an Academy award for his performance, ‘The Hangover‘ starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Heather Graham which is the usual drunken fueled capers around Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party before he’s due to get married, Woody Allen’s homage to Rome, ‘To Rome with Love‘ and the previously mentioned ‘Holy Motors‘ starring Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue. The first two have been reviewed to death and I am fairly certain that you all know or have watched them before, however, the latter two you may not have heard too much about so I’ll review below.

To Rome with Love‘ is written, directed and stars Woody Allen amongst a large Italian and American cast with four separate stories which act as an homage to the Eternal City. The stories include a young, recently married, Italian couple who have just moved from the countryside to Rome to start their new life in the city, a funeral director who can sing as good as any tenor but only in the shower, an established American architect who makes his way back to the street and apartment where he lived for one year and a middle aged, ordinary, Italian man who finds he has become a celebrity over night for no apparent reason.

None of the stories interact or overlap with one another but each are funny, touching and heart warming in their own little way. I found myself waking the passenger next to me anytime Allen was on screen just being his usual self. I must admit, unlike most I am not the biggest Allen fan but I found in this particular outing he balanced enough stereotypes with reality to make his picture into something very endearing.

The story of the young couple Antonio and Milly (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) was somewhat cliched as their trip to the city would be realistic in the 1950s or 60s but hard to believe nowadays. Their paths diverging thanks to mistaken identity on the part of a high class prostitute, Anna (Penelope Cruz) with Antonio and Milly getting lost and meeting one of Italy’s sex symbols, Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese), on set where he seduces her and brings her back to his hotel is fantastical to say the very least, but it is developed in such a way where in a rather comic way both Milly and Antonio are back with one another, probably in a better position than when they lost each other.

Or we have John (Alec Baldwin) who is an architect that designs malls back home in the States. He goes for a wander and meets Jack, clearly a younger version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg) and accompanies him as he watches as a third party all of the events that seemingly happened to him when he lived in Rome all those years ago. He’s able to interact with himself and also his girlfriend’s best friend Monica (Ellen Page) who is an actress who has had a messy breakup and wants to get away from it all in Rome with her friends. Over the course of their time together they start to develop feelings for one another, Monica with her knowledge of one line from certain poems that helps her appear to be knowledgeable, cultured, well read and interesting, Jack with his love for architecture and a heart that is still idealistic and unsullied by the realities of a working life. Wine flows and they fall in love, meanwhile John seemingly pops up and gives his two cents at important junctures on how bad a mistake it is, how he will get hurt and how Monica is a fraud and an actress after all.

As someone who has family in Rome and has been quite a few times, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the fact that it is an open love letter to the city. It is a crazy city in many ways but it is somewhere where I have never been disappointed whenever I go and I don’t think you will be disappointed watching this film either. I would rate it 4 out of 5.

Holy Motors‘ is a film by French director Leos Carax set in Paris in the modern day. It is one of the most bizarre films I have seen for a long while, pushing the boundaries of what is reality, believable and part of the story itself, however, afterwards I felt that I had watched something that I had enjoyed, that had pushed me in ways I had not thought and which was something very unique.

The film primarily revolves around Oscar (Denis Lavant) who travels in the back of a limousine driven by Celine (Edith Scob) around Paris and its suburbs. The back of this limousine acts as Oscar’s make up room where he is whisked around the city to fulfill jobs or tasks in disguise or elaborate costumes or scenarios.

Oscar is found in many different scenarios including picking a young girl up from a party where he plays her father only to find out that she has left not because the party was over but because she felt shy and embarrassed and decided to lock herself in the bathroom the entire time. He chastises her for lying to him, for her thinking little of herself and his punishment is to leave her at home to reflect on the fact that she will forever be unliked and a wall flower due to her cowardice.

Another, far more graphic scene involves a character by the name of Monsieur Merde going through a sewer only to come out at a cemetery where a fashion shoot with the model Kay M (Eva Mendes) is underway.

After falling in love, Monsieur Merde brings Kay M into the sewer where he undresses and styles her in such a way that her outfit resembles a high fashion burqa, possibly a comment on Islam in France, possibly not.

The final segment is something of a melancholic musical involving none other than Kylie Minogue where her and Oscar reminisce that they have not seen each other for many years and how things have changed beyond even their slightly jaded expectations, owing to the line of business they are both involved with.

The film itself is not for the feint of heart and is something which on any other day I may have hated for its pretentiousness, however, maybe due to a severe lack of sleep and timing I actually found it compelling viewing. It was not fantastic, nor was it awful, but it is worth seeing merely to make yourself uncomfortable and to see something a bit different from what is out there.

I would give it 3.5 out of 5.

So, any forthcoming films you would recommend for viewing or something that has gone under the radar of late? Just drop it in below sure.

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