23 May 2008 | RResende
Kate and Barcelona
This is a worthwhile experience, despite all the many flaws the film has. It's a weak work in most of the skills you may think of, related to film technique, and film expression:
The acting is childish, this applies to practically every participant. Exception made to Beckinsale, she moves around in a naive boyish manner, but she distills sex, she is that character who concentrates attentions, without being excessively aware of that. She does it well. The rest of the acting is weak. The editing doesn't help as well. The premises for the montage work in a film such as this one weren't so hard to follow. They just had to tell physical actions, linear and common. Yet there are transitions, basic continuity problems that aren't solved, expressions in the faces that change, and so on. The music is also not well placed, it's a bad soundtrack in its own musical value, but above all in the mood that transmits. The tribal references weren't needed, and in the kind of story depicted, noir influenced, it would have been nice to have the music link the sets and evolutions in the story line.
But there are three things for which i think this is worth taking a look. One is the narrative structure, how the story moves on. This is based on a novel by Pérez-Reverte, the man who also wrote Ninth Gate. So we have a merging of art and life, the story happening in front of us was "written" or at least determined many years ago, buy an artist, in this case a painter. The first scene is masterful in transmitting this, really it was one of the most economic and meaningful first scenes i saw ever. It basically starts with a closeup of a hand in a painting (a hand as a synonym for power, ability to do things), and the camera moves away from the painting (it moves, it's not a zoom out)and we get to see the border of the painting fully merged with the "real" environment surrounding it. This illusion of merger works for a few moments after which we get into the environment and momentarily forget the painting. This really works.
Other thing is the use of House Batló, by Gaudi. It's interesting how the camera (and the editing) lies about the building, to enhance it's qualities. It's not a particularly brilliant exploration of the space, but it's quite competent: what happens is, we get Beckinsale going up the stairs that lead to the first floor, she rings the bell in that first floor. These stairs are beautiful, they curve like the back of an animal, you get the sensation of elevation, instead of going up. Than this is edited and the inner space we get is from inside the attic, which is built with bows that remind an animal spine and bones. Later in the film, we have an outside establishing shot that leads the camera, from the outside, all the way up to the attic. We understand that the character lives in the attic, not in the first floor. This was interesting and showed a specific interest in playing with the house. A side note is that this film is a good opportunity for you to check the great ground floor of the house, which is today polluted by the bars which conduct the tourists, and the tourists themselves, lining up to get in, and filling the sidewalk around. Pity. I have a theory that tourism is literally killing and sucking life out of our best places in the world, but this is another discussion.
Anyway, the touristic gaze can also be seen in the shots that depict the city. Here we also get lies, usually related to the intention of getting the establishing shots. Here i think they messed up. They didn't have to show all the known places all the time. There are fantastic relatively hidden places in that city that show more of its mood and life than the monuments. One of those places is actually used, the St Antoni market (the protagonist lives in front of it). The place is alive, and they use it well in some scenes. But than they lie about the city, so we have her going from Batló, to Rambla, to the Temple, to the market as if they were close enough to walk to, one after the other, sequenced like i said. It's a lie, i have nothing against it, but i have against making the postcard taking nothing useful out of it. A good use of common architecture is the one made with Beckinsale's house, especial its central stairs, and central lifter. The use of Park Guëll is not particularly interest, except for some movement between columns, but that's it. And in that movement, they inserted some staged flirting between couples. Very poor, very artificial, they didn't need to do it, the park has an interesting life on its own.
My opinion: 3/5