Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mark Rothko | Stanley Kubrick | Gregory Crewdson | Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Mark Rothko | Stanley Kubrick | Gregory Crewdson | Palazzo delle Esposizioni
After five long years the newly restored Palazzo delle Esposizioni on Via Nazionale reopened in October of this year and immediately reclaimed its position as Rome's finest exhibition centre. Queues have been long over the Christmas holidays with Romans and tourists alike rushing to catch the Rothko and Kubrick shows which close on 6th January 2008. Climbing up the steps to the main entrance and walking into the central main hall with its columns and immense domed ceiling is rather like walking into a cathedral – the perfect space, in fact, for Mark Rothko's large colour-field canvases. Placing the dazzling yellows and reds of the mid-career Untitled No.10 from the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum immediately opposite the entrance foyer allows the visitor the chance to really admire the painting from a long distance – in fact, the entire show makes maximum and skilful use of the large exhibition space. Looking right, the deep sea blues and greens of No.15 (Dark Green on Blue with Green Band) positively dazzle like an ocean-scape on another far end wall. On a smaller scale, Rothko's original sketch and notebooks are on display alongside their virtual copies allowing the viewer to browse through the entire book in digital format.

The retrospective by American photographer Gregory Crewdson was a total surprise and an added bonus. His unsettling photographs are meticulously staged scenes of American neighbourhoods that border on the surreal. Often inspired by the work of film-makers such as Spielberg or Lynch and featuring famous actors such as Julienne Moore, they read rather like an entire film condensed into one shot, or a short story by Raymond Carver, or a painting by Edward Hopper...the influences are numerous and recognisable but the results feel strikingly original.

And so after two immensely enjoyable exhibitions, we climbed the huge staircase up to the second level and the Stanley Kubrick exhibition...and ended up staying another couple of hours! If you're a Kubrick fan and haven't seen this show – book a last minute flight and get over to Rome! It really is a treasure trove of Kubrick memorabilia - unpublished documents, screenplays, director’s notes, on-set photographs, storyboards, models, costumes, even the lenses he used – all plundered from the archives of the Stanley Kubrick Estate, and made available for the first time. Each and every one of his films is covered including the films that never made it past the pre-production stage – Napoleon, Aryan Papers and A.I. (later made by Spielberg). An absolute must-see exhibition!

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Buon Natale' from Rome...

Just back from a Christmas Eve stroll to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to have a look at the city's larger-than-life nativity scene and 100 foot tall Christmas tree. At 5.30 pm queues were already forming for the Midnight Mass...

San Pietro, Rome - Christmas Eve

...Buon Natale!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ice Skating at the Cavea

Ice skating at the Auditorium in Rome

The Cavea Ice Rink at the Auditorium in Rome
Rome feels pretty low key as regards Christmas this year - very few lights, even in the main shopping streets, but there's a decidedly festive air to the Auditorium. Once again the Cavea, which in the summer months is used as an open air amphitheatre and hosts a series of concerts, is converted into an ice rink. By early evening yesterday, it was packed with ice skaters of all ages, who had braved the coldest day of the year (half of the peninsular is snowed in and there was bitingly cold wind, the northerly tramontana, whipping through the capital). Having last donned skates about twenty-five years ago I was more than happy just to watch and take these photos!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TV, censorship and the state of the nation

Earlier this year Italy was finally granted Free Press status after having rather embarrassingly been the only European country to have worn the Partly-Free badge of shame. Be that as it may, Italy still languishes in 61st place below Israel and Cape Verde, according to the Freedom of the Press 2007 ! Surely, there must be some mistake?! Or maybe not...censorship has reared its ugly head again this week in Italy. Daniele Luttazzi, an Italian comic and satirist who had famously been banished from Italian television by Silvio Berlusconi, recently returned to TV screens with a new show - Decameron: Politica, Sesso, Religione & Morte. As its subtitle suggests (for those of you who don't read Italian), the show looked at politics, sex, religion and death. Maybe it was naive of us to have really believed that anybody who openly criticized the Catholic Church, the presence of Italian peacekeepers in Afghanistan (or rather, the War in Afghanistan) and was so wilfully provocative, rude, challenging and intelligent would survive long. In fact, after transmitting 5 episodes including repeats, La7 channel pulled the plug last week with the trumped up excuse of a personal insult Luttazzi made against Giuliano Ferrara, a fellow La7 TV personality.

On Daniele's blog this morning Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo joined the fray in support of Luttazzi and noted that it was probably no coincidence that the show was cancelled just as Luttazzi was preparing an episode about Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical letter.

And while I'm on a's an interesting piece about the bigger picture of the state of Italy today from the New York Times:

Published: December 13, 2007
For all of Italy’s outside adoration, the country finds itself in an economic, political and social funk.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rome in December...

I took this photo looking from Ponte Sant'Angelo (the bridge immediately in front of Castel Sant'Angelo, famous for Bernini's angels) towards Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II with the dome of San Pietro in the distance.

Mostly skies are azure-blue in the eternal city, but the light was beautiful this afternoon after a grey morning and the Tiber was a Canaletto was raining on the bridge as I walked home later on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Roma Rainbow Choir singing against AIDS

Coming up this weekend in Rome... The Roma Rainbow Choir will be performing at the Chiesa Valdese (Piazza Cavour 32) on Sunday 2nd December at 20.30. Entrance is free and the event is to mark World AIDS Day on 1st December.

The Roma Rainbow Choir is Italy's first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight head over to Piazza Cavour on Sunday and sing-along with them!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Romulus and Remus video footage!

Some exciting archaeological news from Rome that seems to be featuring prominently on the Internet and in newspapers all around the world is the discovery of an underground grotto believed to have been revered by ancient Romans as the place where the she-wolf suckled Romulus and his twin brother Remus. Romulus, the city's legendary founder, and his brother, were allegedly sons of the god of war Mars who were abandoned in a basket floating on the Tiber. The vaulted cave is decorated with seashells and coloured marble and buried 52 feet inside the Palatine Hill, and has so far been visible only via endoscopes and laser scanners as archaeologists fear the cave may collapse. Yesterday, the Italian Ministry of Culture released video footage of the discovery.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fellini's Dreams at the Auditorium

sguardo assorto
Originally uploaded by [ e L e ]
I had the weirdest dream the other night – a Shetland pony leaped out of my bedroom wardrobe and clopped towards the kitchen, out through the French doors and onto the balcony, where I caught up with it devouring the lavender plant! Okay, so I admit there's really nothing very complicated to analyse here – I'd just pruned the lavender, in fact, and had also, just that evening, watched the wonderful John Cassavetes movie Love Streams, where in one scene Gena Rowlands brings two miniature horses inside a house! So why am I suddenly blogging (heaven help us) about my dreams? No, I haven't gone all Jungian...but I have been paying closer attention to my dreams since visiting the exhibition dedicated to the dreams of Federico Fellini which just closed at the Auditorium in Rome - Fellini oniricon - Il libro dei miei sogni (The Book of My Dreams).

From 1960 until 1982 Fellini kept a visual notebook of all his dreams in two ledgers, as well as loose addition pages, some of which are dated as late as 1990. Entirely private affairs kept at the suggestion of his Jungian analyst and never intended for publication they are consequently the closest we can come to really understanding Fellini's creative processes and the influence of the psyche and dreams on his work. Consisting predominantly of large digital prints and enlargements taken from the books – sadly, given the nature of the material, there were only a few, loose page originals on display – the exhibition was a complete delight. The sheer spontaneity of the drawings, particularly those in bright strokes of felt-tip colours, was very apparent, whilst the neat, hand-written explanatory notes, were equally fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the section devoted to mini-portraits of contemporary figures who peopled his dreams. Fellini, it would seem, was a consummate caricaturist, and even self-portraitist.

Nightmares covered a sizeable amount of the notebooks too, with an eerie and obsessive focus on collapsing towers, which to a post 9/11 generation were rather unsettling. The final explosion at the end of Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece Zabriskie Point appears as a background to another drawing with both directors depicted in conversation in the foreground. Least surprising, perhaps, were the dozens of corpulent, large breasted women throughout the exhibition – the women one might easily describe as Fellinesque!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The vocations of Walter Veltroni

I've just read an excellent article in the New York Review of Books which is also available on line.
Entitled Rome: The Marvels and the Menace and written by Ingrid D. Rowland it dishes out some harsh criticism of Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni:

[...] Rome is now in the hands of a mayor whose vocations lie elsewhere. Earnest and self-dramatizing, Walter Veltroni creates film festivals and "White Nights," escorts high school students to Rwanda, Malawi, and Auschwitz, and hobnobs with the likes of Bob Geldof, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rigoberta Menchu from his Michelangelo-designed city hall. He has just written his first novel. He is a man for spectacle rather than infrastructure; to be sure, he is putting in a new subway, but it is the old subway lines that need his attention, with their deteriorating physical plant and their alarming increase in violence. [...]

Autographs collected at the Rome Film Festival!

Have just made this video featuring autographs of stars like Cate Blanchett, Tom Cruise, Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Rhys Meyers - even Francis Ford Coppola - collected during the festival! If you enjoy autograph collecting then check out my other other site Signed By Cast (shameless plug!!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ennio Morricone | The Auditorium, Rome | 30 October, 2007

Getting across Rome on a moped to reach the Auditorium on Tuesday evening was a question of picking the right moment and dodging the torrential rain which had been pouring all day. Amazingly, we managed to get there AND back without getting drenched but only just in time. In fact, an impressively noisy and quite spectacular electric storm broke over the Parco della Musica shortly after we arrived, accompanied by another downpour making the lead-coated insect-like roofs on Renzo Piano's buildings gleam and steam like space pods in a sci-fi movie.

This dramatically cinematographic setting seemed very fitting, somehow, for a wonderful concert by the Orchestra and Choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia directed by the maestro of film scores, Ennio Morricone, and in particular, his ambitious 2002 piece Voci dal silenzio (for vocal recital, recorded voice, chorus and orchestra); both exhilarating and at times, deeply unsettling, it was composed initially as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequently dedicated to the victims of all the massacres throughout history.

After a short interval, Morricone returned to the stage to conduct a series of suites with excerpts from some of his hundreds of film scores, pieces he has tagged applied music as opposed to the absolute music of his concert pieces.

1st suite – Per le antiche scale, from the 1975 movie by Marco Bolognini;
Bugsy, directed by Barry Levinson, 1991;
H2S by Roberto Faenza, 1969.

2nd suite – City of Joy, from the 1992 movie by Roland Joffé;
Nostromo, from the TV series directed by Alastair Reid, 1996.

3rd suite – The new composition Sicilo e altri frammenti, inspired by the ancient Greek Epitaffio di Sicilo, thought to be one of earliest ever examples of musical notation.

4th suite – The Mission, once again directed by Roland Joffé in 1986.

The concert ended to rapturous applause after the extraordinary crescendo of the Mission suite. The maestro was called back several times for encores which included the song that has been playing in my head ever since – Here's to You (aka The Ballad of Nick & Bart) dedicated to the memory of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti from the film Sacco e Vanzetti.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiting for the stars

Determined fans sitting in the Cavea at the Auditorium waiting for the stars to arrive on the red carpet at the Festa del Cinema di Roma. It was a bitterly cold evening when I took this shot but the light was amazing...

Waiting for the stars

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch at 'Into the Wild' Premiere at Rome Film Festival

Sean Penn
Originally uploaded by minimum_photo
Last night's première at the Rome Film Festival attended by Sean Penn and the star of Into the Wild, Emile Hirsch, was probably the event I'd been most looking forward to over the last few days. I'm a huge fan of Sean Penn as both an actor and director and loved his directorial debut The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson, so it was a real thrill to have got tickets. And what a film...With Into the Wild he's made a heartbreakingly beautiful film – an uncompromising masterpiece. Based on the true story recounted in the bestselling book of the same name written by mountaineer Jon Krakauer, the film tells the story of two extraordinary years in the life of passionate idealist Christopher McCandless (Hirsch), a middle class Emory University graduate, who in 1990 gave away all his possessions, his $24,000 life savings to Oxfam and began hitch-hiking across the US under the name of Alexander Supertramp, heading eventually to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Emile Hirsch, who is on screen for virtually the entire film, conveys the charismatic power and passion of this unique young man and the effect he has on the people he meets on his travels, and is supported by a brilliant cast of better known actors – the always brilliant Christine Keener is particularly good, as are Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook. The film as a whole avoids sentimentality and never flinches at also showing the terrible pain that McCandless' decision causes for his parents (played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) and sister (Jena Malone). The film is also enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.

The Rome audience responded with a standing ovation and long applause for both the director and star who had remained in the theatre till the end of the film.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lions for Lambs Première at Rome Film Festival

Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, together with actors Andrew Garfield and Michael Peña were in Rome last night for the première of Lions for Lambs. Cruise arrived a good hour early to sign autographs for an ecstatic crowd of fans who had lined the red carpet. Inside the theatre the atmosphere was equally charged...this evening was clearly an event! On entering the Sala Santa Cecilia at the Auditorium the stars were met with rapturous applause, with Robert Redford in particular receiving a standing ovation and cheers.

Lions for Lambs, is an excellent, totally engrossing film which addresses head-on the foreign and domestic policy dilemmas facing the US today in a period of widespread anti-Americanism. Playing like a stage production, the action runs almost real time, touching on the moral responsibilities of politicians through an ambitious Republican Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) whom we see in conversation with Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), a TV journalist who is forced to admit to the uncomfortable responsibilities of the propagandist role of the press in recent years. This exchange is shown in contrast to the political apathy of the disaffected youth of America, through the dialogue between an idealistic university professor Dr. Malley (Robert Redford) and well-to-do but unmotivated student Todd (Andrew Garfield). The story that connects the two conversation pieces is that of Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Peña), two of Dr.Malley's students who are, at that very moment, fighting for their lives in Afghanistan. With all six leading actors, including newcomer Garfield, mesmerising, an excellent script and Redford's quiet direction, the film is a winner, and quite rightly received warm and prolonged applause as the credits rolled.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Extraordinary cast tackle extraordinary 'Rendition'

Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and director Gavin Hood, together with Hollywood heartthrob and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal braved the sudden bitingly cold weather in Rome last night, to sign autographs along the red carpet outside the Auditorium as they arrived at the première of Rendition. Lucky enough to have tickets for the film I was more then happy to watch their arrival on the big screen inside the theatre and leave the shivering to the dedicated die-hard fans!
So to the film - Rendition is a post 9/11 political thriller which illustrates one fictional personal story (as opposed to allegedly thousands of real life stories) of an Egyptian chemical engineer (played by Omar Metwally), resident in The US for most of his life and married to Isabella (Witherspoon), who after a terrorist attack in an unnamed north African country in which a CIA agent is incidentally killed, finds himself under suspicion and is 'disappeared' to a secret detention centre outside the US under the dubious legislative powers the US Government euphemistically calls 'extraordinary rendition'. To say very much more about the plot would risk divulging spoilers galore, so I'll limit myself to saying that I very much enjoyed this intelligent and engaging movie. Gavin Hood directs a stunning cast; because of the various locations in the film some of the stars share very little, if any, screen time together and yet the whole effect is that of a closely knit ensemble piece with every actor's contribution, however small, fitting perfectly into the whole. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of scenes during the phone conversation between CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal) who leaves a casbah and steps out onto a balcony above a chaotic north African street scene to take a call from anti-terrorism boss Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) in her pristine, white and perfectly ordered kitchen back in the US. Kelley Sane, as screen writer, has also produced a very tight and clever script - a message film, without being preachy, this is one to see.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cate Blanchett in Rome for the Premiere of 'Elizabeth:The Golden Age'

Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush, together with director Shekhar Kapur, were present at the première of Elizabeth: The Golden Age at the Rome Film Festival - Festa del Cinema - yesterday evening. I admit I have a weakness for over-the-top historical costume dramas so with the stellar cast list and the stunning cinematography of this film I was more than happy to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the show! Blanchett, continuing in the role she played so well in Kapur's previous Elizabeth biopic, which focused on the queen's early life, is brilliant and brings a curious mix of steely regal distance combined with real flesh and blood reality to the role – not to mention how stunning she looks, whether she is the vulnerable queen stripped, quite literally, of her gowns, make-up and wigs or in full battle armour astride a white horse rousing her troops. Meanwhile, she is supported admirably by a charismatic Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, Geoffrey Rush as Elizabeth's stalwart Sir Francis Walsingham and the surprisingly effective Samantha Morton as Mary Stewart. Spanish actor Jordi Mollà drips evil as the bad guy of the movie King Philip ll of Spain in a performance that is borderline grotesque and which has provoked cries of anti-Catholicism (there's a lively thread on IMDB dedicated to the subject), although at the press conference the director specified that the film seeks to underline the dangers of all religious extremism. The whole film is directed with panache, is perfectly paced and there are some amazing set pieces – the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the unusual detail of the struggling and panic-stricken horses on board the ships was particularly impressive. And as for historical inaccuracies? Well that's what Wikipedia is for, isn't is?! Enjoy Elizabeth: The Golden Age for what is is – a dazzling blend of historical facts, legends and myths about a fascinating woman and period.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The two faces of Rome

Cipro Metro Station, Rome, Italy

Cipro Metro Station, Rome, Italy
Browsing the Internet the other day I happened upon a Flickr gallery which in turn led me to a blog which was perfectly synchronized with my own personal grumblings about my adoptive city – Migliora Roma (Improve Rome). I thought I'd post a link here and invite readers to take a look at a site which documents brilliantly the many problems citizens face – pollution, traffic, petty crime and crumbling infrastructures. Yesterday, I took a two minute walk to my local Metro stop Cipro and took a few shots of my own. Cipro station is the official Metro stop for the Vatican Museums – we're not talking about a run down, outer Rome station – this is a relatively new station, inaugurated in 1999, which for some tourists will be the first thing they see on their first day in Rome as they emerge from the underground and head for the Vatican Museums.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has just won the leadership race for the newly created Italian Democratic Party but claims he can continue to juggle the two jobs – an obvious invitation for critics to accuse him of leaving less than to be desired when he had just the one job!

Peeling Poster for Rome Film Festival
Meanwhile, the second edition of the Rome Film Festival - Festa del Cinema - will soon be upon us, accompanied by concerns about how much the whole deal is costing the city. Veltroni, to give him his due, has always been very good at pulling off big events and drawing celebrities for free concerts and the like. Rome is an easy draw, after all – what major star wouldn't want to play to a million people in front of the Coliseum? Moan as I may about the day to day running of Rome, however, I do find the lure of the Film Festival and the sight of Hollywood stars on a red carpet irresistible I'm afraid. I've managed to get tickets for a few film premières and will blog about them here over the next couple of weeks. Whether, Rome viewed as a whole is actually worthy of hosting a major film festival, is yet to be seen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

La Bocca della Verità - The Mouth of Truth!

Bocca della Verità

I've just updated my Living in Italy T-Shirt store - reduced the summer t-shirts in price and added some autumnal items like this new Mouth of Truth "distressed" inside-out look sweatshirt!

The Mouth of Truth is thought to be part of an ancient Roman fountain or perhaps a "manhole" cover, portraying a river god. From the Middle Ages onwards however, it was believed that if one told a lie with his hand in the mouth of the sculpture then it would be bitten off. It is now found in the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church in Rome. Do you remember the great scene in with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Joanna Newsom | Circolo degli Artisti, Rome | 23 September 2007

Earlier this year I watched in despair as tickets to see Joanna Newsom at the Barbican in London quite literally disappeared before my very eyes on the on line bookings page of the Barbican Website. By the time I'd checked out flight times and the viability of flying over to the UK all the best seats seemed to have gone! Fast forward to Sunday evening here in Rome and the incredible opportunity to see Joanna Newsom in an intimate, albeit packed-to-capacity, venue in San Giovanni – the Circolo degli Artisti, a place famed for its support of emerging and less mainstream artists.

Very occasionally a concert is more than simply a good or even great concert – sometimes there is something so unique about the artist or a particular performance that you suddenly become aware that you're witnessing an unmissable event by a performer at the peak of their creative powers. And Joanna Newsom at the Circolo degli Artisti on Sunday evening was an extraordinary event. From the moment she stepped out on to the tiny stage accompanied by her brilliant band - pared down from the full orchestration of her last album Ys to only a violinist, a mandolin and banjo player, and percussionist – and sat at her harp to play the opening number Bridges and Balloons, the crowd fell into an awed silence only erupting into rapturous cheers after waiting for the dying final notes of the song to fade. This in itself already seemed a small miracle after the excellent support band, The Moore Brothers had struggled to out sing the noise of constant chatter that had sadly accompanied their Californian harmonies throughout their entire set. In fact, Joanna thanked them profusely on several occasions and said they were her favourite band of the moment. This generosity of spirit was apparent throughout her entire performance as she laughed and beamed between songs, and charmed the room with a combination of sheer genius and radiant beauty...because Joanna Newsom is strikingly beautiful in the flesh – more so, even, than in photographs. The words bellissima and bravissima were heard repeatedly between songs! Stunning versions of Emily and Monkey & Bear followed the opening song, before treating us to two numbers from her first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender - The Book of Right-On and Inflammatory Writ. Sawdust & Diamonds was another perfect gem in a faultless set...Closing the main show with a beautifully measured Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie, she came back on stage with a very special surprise for the encore. A completely new song that she said she had never performed before and had only just finished writing! Could it get any better? Yes, it could...she finished with Sadie, one of my personal favourites.

Here's that new Joanna Newsom song:

And the exquisite Sawdust & Diamonds:

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pavarotti’s Art and Humanity

Pavarotti's funeral was transmitted live on Italian television yesterday. This comment in today's on line New York Times is a nicely measured piece about the event.

International / Europe
Thousands Celebrate Pavarotti’s Art and Humanity
Published: September 9, 2007
Celebrities and thousands of onlookers gathered in Modena, Italy, for the funeral of Luciano Pavarotti.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Massimo Silenzio by Giancarlo Neri

Massimo Silenzio is an installation by Giancarlo Neri using 10,000 luminous globes placed directly on the ground filling Circo Massimo in Rome. The globes slowly change colour and fade throughout the night.

The installation opened yesterday evening on the eve of tonight's Notte Bianca and will be visible every evening until September 11th.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rome in August & The 11th Hour

Rome in August is a strange place. Quite literally half the population of the city leaves on their annual holiday - traditionally the two weeks either side of the Public Holiday of Ferragosto on 15th August, the date of the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A quick check on Wikipedia, however, informs us that Romans have been celebrating this date as far back as the pagan days of the Empire, when they honoured the gods and the cycle of fertility and maturity. The present name is derived from its original name - Feriae Augusti.

For those of us who have chosen not to participate in the mass exodus we're left rattling around an eerily quiet place. Most small local shops and businesses are closed and the only people strolling around seem to be tourists. Most significantly, though, we're left here to imagine what Rome might be like if it were to join the ranks of the truly civilized cities of the new millennium, for Rome in August is a city free of its major scourge - traffic.

Which brings me onto Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary film - The 11th Hour - which will be opening shortly in the US. Rome's participation in the LiveEarth global concert events was conspicuously absent but hopefully the film will be released in Italy soon and help heighten awareness of green issues here. Leonardo was an important presence at the inaugural edition of the Rome Film Festival last October where he presented two green documentaries - Water Planet and Global Warning, so hopefully we'll see him back in the capital again this year with this new film.

You can read more about Leonardo DiCaprio & The 11th Hour here!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Damien Rice | Cannonball (Live-Unplugged) | Rome

Damien Rice is known to hate people recording his shows because it's distracting - rather than really watching the gig people are watching through a camera. I understand exactly what he means – I never take cameras to events because I don't want to miss a second of the event and know how distracted I'd be if I were fiddling around with a camera or my phone etc. However, I confess, I'm secretly always hoping that somebody else has filmed at least a couple of songs and that I'll find them on youTube the next day!! Hypocritical? Yep! Maybe so, but here's that unplugged Cannonball anyway!

Photograph of Damien Rice performing Cheers Darlin'

Damien Rice @ Auditorium, Rome ("But I'm not a miracle and you're not a saint...")
Originally uploaded by FlaturStrákur

Just found this great triple image on Flickr of Damien's theatrical performance of Cheers Darlin' at the Auditorium on 19 July, 2007.

Damien Rice | The Auditorium, Rome | 19 July, 2007

If you enjoy Damien Rice's music you just have to see him live...there are no two ways about it. His performance in the open air Cavea at the Auditorium in Rome on Thursday night was staggeringly good. A consummate musician and performer who moves with ease from guitars to keyboards, he manages to add something indefinable that turns the live event into a truly magical evening. Certainly, the vulnerability expressed in his soul-laid-bare lyrics really comes into play when the guy is singing in front of you, but what really catches you by surprise is just how much more intense every song sounds live; four years down the line numbers from his debut album 0 still sound fresh, and really felt, whereas newer songs from 9 (like opening song Rootless Tree which he played solo at the piano) are instant classics.
As the final song of the main set Damien stepped away from the microphone and sang Cannonball totally unplugged. Rome audiences are not usually good at sitting quietly without chattering through concerts (or movies for that matter) but you could have heard a pin drop as the entire Cavea fell silent and leaned forward to listen...and then sang ever so gently along. Wonderful.
The closing song of the encore was another delight. Throughout the concert Damien had hardly said two words other than mumbled and barely audible introductions of band members. He introduced the song Cheers Darlin', however, with a very funny monologue about a drunken evening in a pub and a failed attempt to pick up a girl; he then proceeded to sing the entire song as if he were drunk, smoking and drinking red wine and staggering off stage to ecstatic applause.
Another personal favourite theatrical moment for me was the song reached its crescendo, we were treated to some simple but very effective lighting effects – suddenly the Auditorium had become a swirling snow scene! The audience gasped in child-like wonder...
The full set list as follows – (thanks to Nine Crimes, excellent Italian Damien Rice fan site)
1. Rootless Tree (Damien solo on piano)
2. Volcano
3. Insane
4. I Remember & Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
5. Dogs
6. Delicate (Old Tomatoes intro)
7. Me, My Yoke & I
8. Accidental Babies
9. Eskimo
10. The Blower's Daughter
11. Cannonball (unplugged)
12. Coconut Skins & percussion jam with band
13. Sleep Don't Weep
14. Cheers Darlin' (with monologue)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Scissor Sisters | Comfortably Numb | Live in Rome

Great clip of Comfortably Numb, Scissor Sister's genial Pink Floyd cover, filmed at the Auditorium in Rome on Tuesday

Scissor Sisters | The Auditorium, Rome | 17 July 2007

...and a fabulous time was had by all! People had turned out in very small numbers (staggering when you look at the eBay haggling for seats in the UK) but what we lacked in numbers we made up for in enthusiasm! (Ricky Martin was also playing to sellout crowds in Rome that night throwing Roman gays, no doubt, into a quandary...)
So yes, we were at the Auditorium again this week, our favourite concert venue, although the outside space at the Cavea - a kind of open air amphitheatre - which is used during the summer months lends itself less well to rock concerts. In fact, Jake Shears & Ana Matronic both mentioned how weird they found the place - the stage is very large and set well back from a seated audience... Except, at a Scissor Sister's party nobody stays in their seat for long - anybody not up and dancing after a couple of songs were challenged directly by Ana "Are you from the Press?...Or are you Swiss?"!!
Scissor Sisters arrived in Rome in a year that has seen the increasingly vocal and oppressive anti-gay stance of the present Pope and the hopeless and ineffectual attempts by the Prodi government to instate some kind of real and workable civil partnerships law for gay couples. Scissor Sisters' anecdotes about Pope Joan, the only woman pope, and their suggestion that we try to imagine what the world would be like if the pope were a transexual , couldn't have been better timed! God bless Scissor Sisters and all who sail in her!
The encore was a rapturously applauded I Don't Feel Like Dancin' and they closed the night with a brilliant Filthy/Gorgeous although for some strange reason it's Jake's falsetto in Tits on the Radio - dedicated to Fellini at the concert - which is still going round my brain two days later!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Monday, July 9, 2007

Oh Jim from Lou Reed's Berlin

Footage taken at the Auditorium on Friday 6 July, 2007

Lou Reed's Berlin | The Auditorium, Rome | 6 July 2007

It's taken me a few days to be able to psyche myself up to writing a few words about Lou Reed's performance on Friday night in the Santa Cecilia concert hall at the Auditorium in Rome. Much has been said and written about this long over due presentation of the 1973 album Berlin which was panned by critics at the time but is now being performed throughout Europe and pretty much stunning audiences everywhere.
So... does it live up to the hype? Well, yes it does - Lou Reed and his band (which included the New London Children's Choir and members of the London Metropolitan Orchestra) gave what was very nearly a perfect performance of an incredibly harrowing album, played right through from bleak beginning to very unhappy ending against the back drop of Julian Schnabel's set designs and his daughter Lola Schnabel's filmed images that echo the story of Jim & Caroline in the songs whilst never intruding.
Stand out moments were Men of Good Fortune; Caroline Says II; the extremely upsetting The Kids with Lou Reed more speaking than singing the line They're taking her children away, complete with its crescendo of children's cries of Mommy; the haunting suicide song The Bed; and the hypnotic finale Sad Song. The audience reaction was ecstatic and the stomps and cheers were rewarded by stunning encore performances of Sweet Jane, Satellite of Love and Walk on the Wild Side. Am hoping for a live album of this event...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Patti Smith Live | The Auditorium, Rome | 3 July 2007

Brilliant footage of Because the Night from the exhilarating concert last night by Patti Smith in the Cavea at Rome's Auditorium. This was the song that saw a rush to the stage of fans of all ages and as the the film shows at the very end, even babes in arms!
This was a date on the European leg of the Twelve Tour to promote her latest album of twelve cover versions that she effortlessly makes her own. Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit was nothing short of genius, with other favourites being Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix; her reworking of Bob Dylan's Changing Of The Guards from his underrated 1978 album Street Legal; and White Rabbit which included a very funny introductory monologue.
As outspoken as ever, however, she saved the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter for the encore, presenting it as an anti-war anthem (a Palestinian flag was draped over an amplifier for the entire set) before closing the night with an electrifying version of Rock 'n' Roll Nigger from Easter.

Monday, July 2, 2007

MotoGP 30 June 2007 | Assen | Final 10 Laps

Pure genius...! Valentino Rossi started from 11th place on the grid to win in what has to one of the most exhilarating MotoGP races I've ever seen. Watch out for the moment he finally makes his move on Casey Stoner with four laps to go. This film is from the Italian TV coverage - on the day of the race the commentators were actually on strike so the footage is blissfully free of inane chatter...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Badly Drawn Boy in Rome | 21 June 2007 part2 for Deb

Yet more amazing footage from the Laghetto show the other evening...with a personal dedication on YouTube from the video maker! BDB fans are a nice bunch...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Laurie Anderson in Concert | The Auditorium, Rome | 22 June 2007

When Laurie Anderson slipped onto the stage in the Sala Sinopoli at the Auditorium in Rome on Friday night she was barely noticed at first by the audience who were still settling into their seats. However, the second she started to speak they fell into an almost stunned silence as she began her journey through her 'Homeland' - a profoundly bleak portrait of 21st-century America and its impact on the world as a whole.
In the brief pause which gave the audience the opportunity to applaud after the brilliant and hypnotic electronic anthem - Only An Expert - the relief of those in the theatre was palpable, for they had been allowed to enjoy a brief moment of humour, albeit darkly cynical, in what was going to be an emotionally intense evening.
From moving personal references to her parents and grandmother, to the flights of surreal fantasy of Underwear Gods, in which giant billboards come to life and take over Manhattan in all their gigantic and oppressive perfection, to blistering attacks on President Bush and US foreign policy, this was an incredible journey.
We can only hope that Laurie Anderson isn't a lone voice in the wilderness and that things must change, and soon, for the better.

Badly Drawn Boy Video | Rome 21 June 2007

Amazing footage of Badly Drawn Boy at Laghetto dell'EUR in Rome on 21 June 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Badly Drawn Boy in Concert Review | Laghetto dell'EUR - Rome | 21 June 2007

What is perhaps not immediately obvious about Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy until you see him perform live is just how charismatic the man can be. Performing to a small crowd at the Laghetto dell'EUR in Rome last night he opened a two hour set with Born in the UK and followed that with two further songs from his latest album of the same name - Degrees of Separation and A Journey from A-B. It was during the fourth song, however, All Possibilities from his third album Have Your Fed the Fish? that he really wooed the crowd with his disarming sense of irreverent humour swaggering up and down the stage, assuming a rock star pose and defying anybody to stay seated. By the end of the song he had us eating out of his hand...getting us to clap along when he told us to and then turning on the charm once again by dedicating The Further I Slide to all the beautiful women of Italy.
Renowned for being a perfectionist – in a brief moment of rage he threw one of his guitars across the stage – at the beginning he seemed frustrated by some technical hitch, but the Rome audience loved him and seemed to cajole him out of any bad mood. Part of a mini-tour to promote the current album BDB also played some real gems from all his previous albums – Silent Sigh and Donna & Blitzen from the About A Boy Soundtrack Album were stand out wonderful versions; This is That New Song from One Plus One is One was very moving after his intimate introduction; You Were Right from Have You Fed The Fish? was another highpoint (he named this as his own personal favourite song he'd ever written); an acoustic version of The Shining from his first album, Mercury Prize winner The Hour of the Bewilderbeast; closing with a blistering version of Everybody's Stalking.
After having flown over to London to see him play One Plus One is One in its entirety a couple years ago at the Royal Festival hall it was wonderful to see him in such a small venue, although it surely can't be long before he's playing to bigger audiences in Italy too. Come back soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

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