Woody Allen‘s latest, an anthology piece set in Rome, once had a great title — The Bop Decameron. But under-educated people the world over said they didn’t understand what it meant, and so Allen went with Nero Fiddles — a mildly dreadful title. But the under-educated didn’t understand that one either. So now the film is called To Rome With Love — surely the drippiest that Allen has ever gone with in his 40-plus years of filmmaking.
“The film’s former title, Nero Fiddled, while an appropriate and humorous phrase in the U.S., is not a familiar expression overseas and many international territories preferred a more globally understood name,” explains a Sony Classics press release.
I’m sorry but what does that mean? They don’t have schools overseas? What sales reps from what inernational territories were pleading with Woody to dumb it down?
A movie title can’t be too arcane or obscure, of course, but artists should never descend to the water-table level of common comprehension. Let the unwashed masses come up to your level, dude. You’re the artist. You prepare the food, and the rabble sits down to eat it. To hell with ’em if they can’t figure decipher the meaning.
How clueless do you have to be to not know the expression “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”? If you don’t know that one then you’ve probably never heard the one about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon or George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or Abe Lincoln splitting rails or the expression “it’s Greek to me” (a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) or whatever.
To paraphrase a line from the late Hunter S. Thompson, “Has the international community descended to the level of dumb beasts?”
Or is Woody letting his sister, Letty Aronson (who produces his films and deals with funding and distribution), push him around in his old age? Can anyone imagine the Woody Allen of the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s saying, “Oh, the uneducated masses don’t understand what my title means? I’ll dumb it down then…no problem”?