Movie comment: Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)  

Posted by Denis Haack in , ,

I never miss a Woody Allen movie, though I know this dates me in a way some would not find particularly flattering. Like with the music of Bob Dylan, I grew into adulthood watching Allen’s films. And Vicky Christina Barcelona was enticing in promising a glimpse of the actor, Javier Bardem, who won an Oscar for his role as the chillingly ruthless killer Chigurh in No Country for Old Men to this time play an attractive and sensitive artist.


One of the advantages of watching Allen’s work over the years has been the chance to trace the trajectory of his ideas. Good films like all serious storytelling, includes an allusive exploration of beauty and life, of values and assumptions, of belief and metaphor. And when you watch Allen’s films this way, a profound shift occurs around the time of Mighty Aphrodite (1995) that echoes both the choices of his own life and the growing skepticism of post-modernity. Prior to that shift Allen probed the big questions of life by asking questions, afterwards he raised the same issues but closed the door on hope.


In Vicky Christina Barcelona two young American women, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Christiana (Scarlett Johansson) find themselves in Spain, wondering whether they can find meaning and love sufficient to bring purpose to their lives. They meet a dashing Spanish artist, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and accept his invitation to spend a weekend together at his villa. Their time is a whirlwind of stunning architecture, art, leisurely meals in captivating cafes, conversations over wine with poets and artists late into the night, and sex that always is better than anyone could imagine. Then Juan Antonio’s volatile ex-wife, Maria Elena, played with convincing intensity by Penelope Cruz, crashes the party.


There is a deep truthfulness in Vicky Christina Barcelona. Imagine a whirlwind fling in beautiful Barcelona Allen seems to be saying, full of beautiful people who sweep you off your feet into a carefree life in which work is fun, nights are passionate, and money never seems to be a problem. Not only will the dream in the end crumble, the relationships will never be sufficient to bring meaning and love that will not leave in the morning light.


Sometimes the truth is depressing, in the end, when told with brutal honesty. Especially when, as in Vicky Christina Barcelona, there is no Story to replace despair with hope.


This entry was posted at Saturday, March 21, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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