Cult U.S. comedy director Woody Allen on Friday premieres his latest film "To Rome With Love" starring himself and Penelope Cruz and reviving the "Dolce Vita" movie star heyday of the Eternal City.
"I've always wanted to make a film in Rome," Allen said in a statement ahead of the hotly-awaited world premiere at a concert hall in the city with co-stars Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Oscar-winning comedian Roberto Benigni.
"Over the years and my many visits... little ideas occurred to me, and I was able to utilize those ideas to comic advantage, romantic advantage, combined with the visual beauty of Rome," the famously neurotic New Yorker said.
Producers kept a tight lid on the plot before the premiere saying only that it was made up of four vignettes that tell the story of a group of Americans and Italians "and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into."
Benigni, who shot to international fame with his bittersweet Holocaust comedy "Life is Beautiful", in one of the vignettes is an ordinary man mistaken for a celebrity and chased by paparazzi as he goes about his daily life.
Allen's last film "Midnight in Paris" -- a homage to the Golden Age of the French capital -- won acclaim and box office success, as well as bagging the cult director an Academy Award this year for best original screenplay.
Fans of Allen's films have seen signs of a creative revival for the master after his 1970s classics such as "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" with "Match Point" in 2006 -- a dark thriller that marked an unusual departure from comedy.
Born Allen Konigsberg on December 1, 1935, to a family of second generation Jewish immigrants in New York, Allen said he spent much of his Brooklyn childhood alone in his room, practicing magic tricks or playing the clarinet.
He was reportedly hired while only a teenager to write one-liners for well-known comedians of the day. He studied film at New York University but was kicked out for failing a course before going on to work as a stand-up comedian.
He wrote for television in the late 1950s and early 1960s before making his film debut in 1966 with "What's Up, Tiger Lily?". He has written and directed more than 40 films in a career spanning nearly half a century.
His homage to Rome also marks a return to the spotlight for the Italian capital, whose mix of ancient Roman ruins and Baroque facades provided the setting to film classics "Roman Holiday" (1953) and "La Dolce Vita" (1960).
Wearing a fisherman's hat and his trademark thick-framed glasses, Allen was seen filming last summer, including at the Spanish Steps -- the backdrop to a famous scene of "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Among other shooting locations were the Colosseum, Via del Corso and Via Veneto -- the hub of Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" which famously coined the word "paparazzo" to describe celebrity-hunting photographers.
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