Monday, 2 March 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Henry James meets Eric Rohmer meets Pedro Almodovar in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen’s tale of Americans questioning their certainties abroad. Like most of Rohmer's work the movie is, to borrow Pauline Kael's phrase, a piece of "serio-comic triviality.” But fortunately Allen, unlike Rohmer, doesn’t "direct to a metronome” so the end result is quite spry and fun. I don’t support the view that Allen’s work has deteriorated beyond measure over the years - I find some of his “classics,” such as Annie Hall and Manhattan insufferably smug and irritating. Though VCB is about as trivial as his movies come, it at least has Barcelona looking fabulous, lovely performances from Scarlett Johansson (ah, how I LOVED Scarlett in 2004 ...), Rebecca Hall and Javier Bardem, plus Penelope Cruz injecting a dose of creative insanity into the proceedings. There's also a well-observed turn by Chris Messina as Hall's dull-as-ditchwater fiance-then-husband (who ends up with the funniest line in the film). Throughout, Allen recycles all sorts of stereotypes about passionate, quick-tempered Spaniards who propose sex two minutes after meeting and stick knives into each other during domestic arguments, but the film has enough pace and charm to get away with this. The deadpan narration subtly ironises everybody that’s presented, but it’s a warm and quite delightful movie overall.

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