I happen to be in Rome for the 5th annual International Rome Film Festival and the event is a somewhat privileged segue way into the cradle of Western civilization.
The opening night film is Last Night, directed by Massy Tadjedin and starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet. The audience is giddy with anticipation to see the stars of the film walk into the auditorium right before the screening and once Keira Knightley enters, most people stand and cheer and clap and there are even squeals of joy. My group claps, but remains seated. We can't help but remark that living in Los Angeles has made us all jaded. Movie stars and celebrities are aplenty in southern California and we take it for granted as easily as a Roman may motorcycle by the Colosseum every day on their way to work and barely bat an eye at it. The film is a well-acted character study about loyalty, love and infidelity in marriage. Is an affair of the heart better or worse than the physical act of cheating on one's spouse? It's a quiet piece and a great showcase for Knightley and Canet.
After the screening, my group eats a late dinner and then heads over to the official opening event party at MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts, a thoroughly modern and sexy building. A giant sculpture of a skeleton lays on its back to greet us as we enter the dark cavernous front hall that is packed with people drinking and listening to a DJ mixing conversation-inhibiting beats.
We mix with some of Italy's film industry elite and then taxi over to a drag bar and stay up until dawn with a couple of actresses starring in one of the other official selections that hasn't premiered yet, an Australian film called Little Sparrows.
As an Angeleno, I've spent many years going to bed early only to rise with the sun. Rome is a 24-hour city and since my internal clock is still on United States west coast time, I'm able to keep up with it. For now.
I take taxis and the train, but mostly walk the city. I'm renting an apartment that is within 10 minutes of the Colosseum and every where I look there are architectural wonders—ruins, basilicas and fountains. European cities almost always beat the New World for those breathtaking man-made wonders.
All of this festival and exploring the city madness is mixed with transcendent food moments. Risotto and handmade pastas made with tomatoes or zucchini blossoms or shrimp. Pizzas topped with anchovies, potatoes, basil, and sausage. Thick, crusty breads and salty tender prosciutto parma, fresh mozzarella, aged provolone and insalata ricotta, roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant and roasted artichokes. Espresso, espresso and did I tell you about the espresso! I have yet to meet a bottle of wine here I didn't like. And the gelato, oh the gelato... chocolate, pistachio and hazelnut, oh my!!!
There is more cinema to experience and people to meet and food and art to discover. Cappuccino is calling and the answer is sí, per favore. Ciao! For now.