Directer Woody Allen
The cold, half-rain half-snow weather common to this time of year led me to the supposed warmth and coziness of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." The audience, which was full of immensely excited middle-aged women, brought to mind the love/hate relationship with Woody Allen films I have developed over the years. This time, however, I was leaning to the love side.
The selection of actors, a beautiful set location and absence of the director himself as a main character were among the reasons this film fell on the "love" side.
The story begins with two American friends, Vicky (played by English actor Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), traveling to Barcelona for summer. Vicky goes to do research for her Master's degree on "Catalan identity" and Cristina accompanies her in an effort to give some purpose to her life.
Vicky is more traditional with regards to love and commitment, and has a fiance back in New York. Cristina, meanwhile, is free-spirited and open-minded. She does not waste any time in seducing a charismatic Spanish artist Juan Antonio (played by American Academy-award winner Javier Bardem).
Juan, on the other hand, is interested in both girls and makes a very unambiguous proposition. The three of them end up in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo 's Vicky stern, Cristina excited, and Juan Antonio hopeful.
This is when the story really starts developing, and begins to move in a very promising direction. The light-hearted and optimistic romantic comedy gets more complicated.
Pessimistic and melancholic elements emerge. This "allenesque" way of telling the story is for a few moments shaken by the introduction of Penelope Cruz's character, Maria Elena. She is like fresh air in a room already becoming somewhat moldy and gives new meaning for the film as new dilemmas arise.
The director continues to examine the depths of the human heart, sexual needs and the problems they cause, the way people deal with social requirements and the things they are ready to sacrifice for them. All this is flavored with witty conversations and expectedly unexpected character actions and attitudes.
The city of Barcelona helps create a relaxed, summery, artsy and culture-sunk atmosphere. However after the first few picturesque views and landmarks it starts to look like an over-extended travel commercial or guide, but a very well done one. That is no surprise 's the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan Autonomous Government partially funded the film.
Allen used the location to play with cultural stereotypes. He intentionally clung to the cliches, making the European characters sophisticated, bohemian and living without having to worry about anything else except love, sex and art. All of them smoke.
In deliberate contrast, he exposes puritan, hard-working, organized and constrained Americans. Everything mixes in the film, revealing a human nature which is actually more or less universal.
Cristina represents someone who should be considered a New Yorker and resembles characters played by Woody Allen in his previous films. That is a nervous confused artist, on the verge of emotional crisis, anxious to find the right solution for encountered love or work problems. Scarlett Johansson managed to do it this time, though she was obviously outshined by her fellow co-stars.
Javier Bardem's acting was brilliant and effortless. While not being the Hollywood cover boy, he still made everyone in the audience sigh, either with pleasure or jealousy.
Penelope Cruz was like a thunderstorm, so passionate, unpredictable and crazy and at the same time compassionate, gentle and amusing like a breeze. The biggest surprise, though, was relatively unknown actress Rebecca Hall. Her ability to depict Vicky, the character experiencing the biggest inner conflict, was delightful.
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is a steep shift up from a last couple of unsuccessful Woody Allen's films, which he shot after the strongly acclaimed Match Point. But it is only natural that an artist experiences ups and downs periodically. Enjoy the product of good times 's Spanish summer, great actors and beautiful Barcelona.
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