Wednesday 14 November
The Tiber is scarily high with all the flood water pouring down from our rural neck of the woods. We had a dinner appointment last night across the river by Ponte Milvio, and thought it would be a pleasant stroll. What it turned out to be was a long slog, via Ponte Duca d’Aosta, having first watched many first responders responding in very languid fashion indeed to a house boat which had broken its moorings in the high water and ended broadside on, bumping against Ponte Milvio.
The bridge, of course, was shut, hence our long hike. It does make one wonder though: every year, the moment the Tiber rises, some waterborne vehicle plunges into the stream and crashes into a bridge. Can’t they be issued with regulation stronger ropes?
It’s only when something dramatic happens that Romans really notice their river. Pounding along the riverside pavement, I realised that only those people who frequent funny old clubs – rowing clubs, tennis clubs etc – down there on the banks have any kind of relationship with the Tiber at all. It’s funny to think that it used to play such an immense part in people’s lives – by which I mean it flooded regularly, sweeping their cattle and belongings away, but it also carried their goods and (disgustingly) washed their clothes – until the banchine were constructed at the end of the 19th century. Now it feels quite dead.
Il Leone di Orvieto (Aureliano Amadei) rise and fall of a genial swindler? Giancarlo Parretti reached his apogee – ie ownership of MGM – when I was working at ANSA in the mid-1990s and became, for me, a symbol of all that was (is?) wrong with Italy. An affable thin-ice-skater, floating somewhere in that grey area between shark and jackal, he bought failing companies with promises of cash from dubious sources, asset-stripped them then moved on, leaving some hard-to-explain side effects (things had a tendency to burn down, like the Paris HQ of Credit Lyonnais, which had, weirdly, lent him the wherewithal to buy the colossally indebted MGM). There was Giancarlo in the cinema for this documentary, grinning and shaking hands, looking like the conquering hero; no doubt too unsubtle to grasp the criticisms (dealt out with far too light a hand for my taste) implicit in even a merely factual retelling of his sordid story; no doubt thinking that everything he had done was justifiable in the interests of moving his louche dealings forward. And the people shaking hands with him were no doubt that particular kind of Italian who worships craft and guile, and believes that making good at any cost is the way to go… feelings which kept Silvio Berlusconi in power all those years. The docu was funny; it was also blood-curdling. And it left – presumably for legal reasons – a whole series of even more chilling considerations hanging in the air.
Bullet to the head (Walter Hill) a high-body-count giggle. Silvester Stallone is a monstrous-looking beast. His body’s so pumped up with something that he moves like he’s suffering from severe lombalgia and an excruciatingly stiff neck. His face is a pocked mask; in this movie you feel that his physio has ordered him to keep on talking, spouting any old laboured wisecrack, otherwise his muscles might seize up completely. The plot is full of gaping chasms, the acting is often painful, the character chemistry is… well, it isn’t. And yet, and yet. I couldn’t actively dislike it, mostly because it made me laugh. It’s not side-splittingly funny: it just pokes gentle fun at the genre. My worry for it, though, is: it’s not whole-hearted enough as a piss-take to get an intellectual audience in; but it’s not enough of a tough-Sly action flick for the masses, who will no doubt just think it’s weak. Hey ho.