Monday, May 25, 2009

ROMAN HOLIDAY (William Wyler, 1953, USA) Joe Bradley is heartbroken and left abandoned, not before the Alter but the Princess’s vacant throne. Princess Ann, played by the beautifully childlike and radiant Audrey Hepburn, is given a shot in the arm to relax her but instead she escapes from her gilded cage and into the bustling Rome nightlife. Down and out reporter Joe Bradley stumbles upon this dazed and confused stranger and thus blossoms a 24 hour love affair; between both “Anya” and Joe…and the vibrant city of Rome. Director William Wyler films entirely on location, which imbues the narrative with superlative energy and creates a romantic neo-realism: the walk through the market and the use of non-actors bring this fairytale to the crowded streets, a stark juxtaposition that is necessary to empathize with the characters. Though Wyler’s film remains patriarchal in structure (“Anya” must have a man around her at all times), it’s Audrey’s performance of fiery independence and firm morality that elevates the plot’s subtext concerning feminist empowerment. Dalton Trumbo’s script subverts the carefree romantic comedy with allusions to sexual assault (“Anya” checks to see if her pants are still on) and drug use (the sedative that will make her happy…morphine). Also, the ascent into journalistic morality by Bradley who sacrifices a great story for love; he’s a shyster that has grown into a man. “Anya” meanwhile has understood that her duty to the many outweighs her need to the one. Eddie Albert provides slapstick relief as the sneaky photographer (LA DOLCE VITA wouldn’t coin the phrase Paparazzi for another 7 years) and he too makes the difficult choice. Wyler plays with romantic convention, as we await the typical ending when lovers reunite, specifically: once in the car as “Anya” disappears around the corner, the camera holds upon Joe and the empty street for a few moments of suspense; and secondly, when the Princess and her entourage depart the ballroom and Joe is left standing alone, hoping for her to run back into his arms. The final tracking shot of Joe’s forlorn walk is through the empty hall, his footsteps a harsh staccato that echoes his loneliness; a sad love that could have been but can never be. (A)

No comments: