The warm, rich tones of this film complement the many, many glasses of wine that all of the characters drink in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. So much so, you might believe you were getting a bit tipsy yourself with a large glass of whatever Woody Allen is serving this time. The follow up to the less than memorable Cassandra’s Dream (2007) sparks a new era for the then septuagenarian. An era that still hand picks various cities around the world as a character in it’s own right. Outside the confines of Allen’s own New York, there’s a more varied European palette. One swiftly painted with a tourist’s eye.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Barcelona is the city in question this time. The film opens with sultry music which is consistent throughout the film. Its sometimes welcomed and well placed, but sometimes irritating. Nevertheless, its enticing us into the Catalan culture. Its teamed with a plucky Spanish guitar humming the tune of the titular city in question. It leaves us in absolutely no doubt as to where we and our other titular characters, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson, notably one of Allen’s muses) have flown into.
Both girls, who are friends, have decided to spend a summer in Barcelona. Presumably to work through any personal issues both girls are struggling with, or just because they can. Vicky, engaged, has her life all worked out. Though this is seemly her doing and also studying for her masters in Catalan culture. Cristina is a flaky actress who feels unlucky in love. Despite it becoming obvious that it is she who chooses the wrong men and still thinks she is not the problem. And all she learns from each endeavour is not what she wants, but what she doesn’t. Alrighty then. Makes tonnes of sense.
‘Barcelona’ is just as much a character as ‘Vicky’ and ‘Cristina’
Barcelona is on top form. Draping it’s culture in front of our eyes like it’s consistent sunny weather. Constantly reminding you that, despite the two women having their same tendencies and sensibilities, the same story wouldn’t have unfolded quite the same just anywhere. Had this been a film called ‘Vicky Cristina Tokyo’ or ‘Vicky Cristina Helsinki’, the sensibilities of Barcelona wouldn’t have played the ladies like the Spanish guitars they are so easily hypnotised by. To the delightful tune of the food, the wine, the art, summer heat… The Spanish men.
Cristina is constantly happy snapping. Traipsing around Barcelona seeking the best sweet treats, meeting the local children, strolling around tourist hotspot La Rambla, etc. So much so, I hope that Woody received some money from the Catalan tourist board for physically putting the audience in the character’s comfortable touristy plimsolls. My mind is transported, I’m hooked.
The Spanish really are hot
The Spanish man in question is passionate artist Juan Antonio (the delectable Javier Bardem) as the smooth talking sensual man that whisks away Vicky and Cristina. Juan Antonio’s off-the-rails ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) provides the delightful mess in a film that may have drowned under the weight of it’s own pretension. She’s sassy, hell-bent on destroying everything and fabulously inappropriate enough to wake Cristina from her Spanish dream. It’s a film that could warrant some eye-rolling if it weren’t for it’s saving graces.
The whimsical narration is ultimately what turns a privileged, stereotypical, white-washed holiday into a cleverly scripted dive into human wants and needs, and how they adapt when their surroundings have changed. The narration often rides the fine line between sarcasm and using it’s all seeing ability to convey tone which brings Vicky and Cristina’s Europe jaunt full circle in a small narrative twist that turns a good film into a memorable one to go back to. Now, excuse me whilst I book my flights to Barcelona and have a glass of wine or two.
Have you ever seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Did you love it as much as I did?