Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: “Roman Holiday”

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I’m trying to keep myself accountable this year to catching up to classics that I’ve embarrassingly never seen – The Apartment (swoon), Paths of Glory, The Conversation, more to come that have foolishly slipped through the cracks.

For this week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, we’ve been given the option of To Kill A Mockingbird or Roman Holiday to celebrate the 100th birthday of star Gregory Peck. Mockingbird was a childhood staple, so naturally I chose the unseen option from master director William Wyler for a little two bird, one stone. His everyman charm is on full display in Holiday, but Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning princess is the one at center stage. The camera is fascinated by her, capturing every secret and momentary curiosity that tracks across her expressive face – with Peck being the plainspoken foil with secrets of his own.

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If Peck takes a backseat in audience focus, it’s because his half of the love story lacks a personal arc that fuels the film like Hepburn’s Princess Ann. He’s falling in love with her, but her falling in love with him is only a piece to the larger puzzle of her self-actualization. It’s easy to imagine cinematographers Franz Planer and Henri Alekan (Oscar-nominated for their work here) relying heavily on the machinations of the star’s face given the quality of the performance at hand. Granted part of a cinematographer’s job is capturing performance, and they certainly know when to hold back and let the performer tell the story. As Ann enjoys the anonymity of Rome and enacts the whims she’d been refused by her position, Hepburn is staged more confidently in the frame while her body language becoming even more complex and nuanced.

However, the city begins to tell the love story.

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