Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson
Written & directed by Woody Allen
With all the froth and whimsy of a provincial European streetscape, Vicky Cristina Barcelona delivers equal doses of trademark Woody Allen schtick and golden-toned scenery - forget Getaway, if you want a slice of Spanish life, take your cues from this film's preternaturally attractive cast.
Studious and serious, Vicky (Hall), joins her 'frustrated artisté' best-friend, Cristina (Johansson) on a summer holiday to Spain. The former intends to research her thesis on Catalan identity, whilst the latter is determined to enact her carpe diem lifestyle in a culturally rich environment.
Taking up a room with one of Vicky's affluent connections (Clarkson), it's not long before the two alluring foreigners are ensnared by the charming lothario Juan Antonio (Bardem).
Despite Vicky's determined reluctance, and in spite of Cristina's flirtatious eagerness, Juan Antonio lures both into his world of sensual gratification and romance, complete with art, poetry and the entrancing melodies of the Spanish guitar. In a slight deviation from Vicky's holiday schedule, Cristina becomes Juan Antonio's lover, thus satisfying her need for vicarious artistic expression.
However, matters are complicated by the arrival of the fractious Maria Elena (Cruz), Juan Antonio's greatest love and, conveniently, greatest threat. In a more pronounced deviation from the tourist timetable, Cristina, Juan Antonio and Maria Elena road-test the ménage a trois family plan, with mixed results.
Essentially a sex comedy, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is typical Allen, in that the audience is constantly kept on their toes as convention, cliché and predictability are thrown out the door. We are forced to confront the neat, if not stale, moulds of marriage and relationships, fidelity and loyalty, and in doing so, examine our own blinkered conceptions of the big L-O-V-E.
The entire film is gifted with Allen's assured simplicity (beginning with the alphabetised opening credits) as the celluloid Wilde executes his directional narrative with ease and sensibility. Also characteristic of his more recent work, Allen indulges his preoccupation with wealth and bohemia, and in his treatment of the two, appears both infatuated and repulsed by their inherent pretension.
Vicky, played with commendable skill by the regal Hall, encapsulates the mental, analytical side, inevitably ruined by an inability to treat relationships as physical. Cristina exists as the parallel, as her unwavering naiveté makes her subject to her impulses and feelings above all else.
Allen uses the seemingly innocuous vessel of a friendship to illustrate these two standpoints as both irreconcilable and inseparable, and through his anti-formula escapade, satirises the entire notion of romance.
If any one character was to present an insight into the man behind the camera, it would have to be the ambling Cristina - in confessing her talent-deficit, one senses that Allen himself, in constantly depicting painters and poets, writers and lovers, is compelled by unanswered rather than satisfied notions of creativity.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a bubbly, energetic and confident piece of filmmaking, and - not to be forgotten - it's a lot cheaper than an international airfare.
3 and a half stars
Articles Written by Alexandra
Reviews written by Alexandra
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