Two friends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.Two friends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.Two friends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.
I needn't have worried because it is like the man behind Cassandra's Dream and this film cannot be the same person. It is a excellent film and one that Allen's fans will love and perhaps, just perhaps, it may even be good enough to win over those that wouldn't give him the time of day far less the price of a cinema ticket. It helps that the film is firmly back on themes that Allen has done so well in the past matters of the heart, of passion, of love, of lust, of marriage. The whole film plays in its entirety just like one of the many "discussion" scenes where the characters discuss these matters over coffee etc and it is this consistency that makes it such a joy because what we see minute to minute engages and that is pretty much what we get from the film as a whole but not as a sum of the parts but as the whole producing the same as the parts but in a different way. This interests me and it is delivered with a colour and flamboyance that somehow never takes away from the intelligence and thoughtfulness behind the writing; I'm not sure how he did it because the narrative is so wild that it could easily have been silly, but he holds it together without it even looking difficult.
The use of a narrator concerned me at first particularly since I had just seen Allen S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G everything out in big dialogue chunks in Cassandra's Dream but on the contrary here the narrator is used to link and mostly compliments by being droll and being a great voice (good casting job there). The cast are what will attract an audience to this film and, beyond them just being some very big names, they are all excellent. Bardem is just so effortlessly sexual and sensual that he perfectly fits Allen's writing of this passionate, creative love versus the steady and frankly dull love of Messina's Doug. Hall essentially takes the traditional Allen role but makes it work more than others trying it have done. She doesn't take the mannerisms so much as getting the character right and she is the heart of the film, thrown between passionate love and reliable love. No question which Cruz represents and she does it really, really well. Out of sight for the majority of the film she strikes like a thunder storm, totally wild and full of fire but not to the point where she is unattractive or not tempting, which would have taken away from what she was trying to be. Johansson is easily the least of these talented names but even she does well; I won't say brilliant but she was good. Again, Welch was a good choice for narrator and I always enjoy Clarkson even if she has limited times to shine here.
Allen's direction is really good in regards the actors but of equal note is how he and Spanish cinematographer Aguirresarobe have delivered Barcelona to the viewer. The city contributed towards the making of the film and on the evidence of this it will be money well spent. The city looks beautiful, with great landscapes, plenty of colour to match the passion and a real sense that this is a place where art, passion and inspired sex is all around. Beyond being just wallpaper, this is of course a key part of the film's world and it is another part of the reason that this hooked me so easily.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona will likely be gushed over in the same way that any recent Woody Allen that isn't rubbish is hailed as a "return to form" etc. On this occasion though, such praise is not a knee-jerk but fully deserved. The film is intelligent, passionate, comic, free-flowing and enjoyably light. It looks the part and the cast take the natural, smart script and make the absolute most of it. I guess if you dislike Woody Allen then none of this will matter but to those that even have a liking for his better work, this film will hit the spot. It has been a while since I have had the words "excellent" and "Woody Allen film" together in the same sentence, but this is an excellent Woody Allen film.
- bob the moo
- Dec 26, 2008