Woody Allen brought "To Rome with Love" to the city that inspired his latest film, but some homegrown critics are grumbling that the American director's new work is loaded with old-fashioned Italian stereotypes.
At a news conference Friday in Rome following a screening for Italian journalists, Allen exuded a fuzzy, love-struck view of the country.
"(Americans) have an enormously affectionate feeling about Italy," he declared. "They think of Italy as a country that is enormously warm . ... It's a very easygoing place to live, a place that enjoys life and that stands for everything positive about life."
That sunny assessment of their country, which is now enduring tough economic austerity measures, including new taxes, job cuts and higher retirement ages, sparked objections from some Italian journalists. One contended the film was "superficial."
Allen responded by saying his sole intention was making an entertaining movie set in Rome.
"When I come to a place to make a movie, I give you my own impression of it, the things that strike me as dramatic or comic, that would be fun to see," he said. "I have no great insights at all into Italian politics, Italian culture."
The film, in the form of vignettes, is a light-hearted romp through a cobblestoned, seemingly always sunny city. Stars include Allen, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and Italian comic actor/director Roberto Benigni. Paparazzi clicked away at the stars, just as they do in the film.
Only Italian journalists were invited to the screening because it was shown in its dubbed version. And as Allen put it, "I don't like dubbing at all."
Benigni, the exuberant "Life Is Beautiful" Oscar winner, defended Allen's view of Italy. He recounted how at one point while filming, a Rome ambulance, siren whining, drove by. Seeing the filming, the ambulance slammed on its brakes, roared back in reverse, and the crew jumped out to take a couple of photos with Benigni before racing off to pick up an ailing patient.
"Mr. Allen said, 'Only in Italy, only in Italy.' In fact, it could have been the title of the film," Benigni observed, chuckling.
The movie marks Allen's first time on the screen since his 2006 "Scoop." Another paean to a European capital by Allen, "Midnight in Paris," packed theaters and won him an Academy Award this year for original screenplay.
"To Rome with Love" opens June 22 in the United States.