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  Publicity Stills of
"Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
(Courtesy of Festive Films)

In English & Spanish with English Subtitles
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Mature Theme)
Official Website: http://www.vickycristina-movie.com/

Opening Day: 25 September 2008


Just as New York City was the backdrop in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, the stunning city of Barcelona in the setting for the romantic adventures of Vicky and Cristina. These two young Americans spend a summer in Spain and meet a flamboyant artist (Javier Bardem) and his beautiful but insane ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is straight-laced and about to be married. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is a sexually adventurous free spirit. When they all become amorously entangled, the results can only be described as chaotic. Barcelona is seen as a very beautiful, romantic city like New York was in the movie, MANHATTAN.

Movie Review:

There is something about Europe that has left Woody Allen mesmerized.

After more than three decades of filmmaking, the 74-year old prolific director has of late found a muse in the continent’s cities of London and now, Barcelona. But hey, if the results are as fresh and charming as Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it is probably the closest thing to a creative resurrection for someone best known for his on-screen neurotic characters.

Allen’s latest tells of two American tourists Vicky and Cristina on their summer vacation to Barcelona. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is sensible and down-to-earth, engaged to a fiancé stable and independent. She knows what she wants. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is dreamy and passionate, a free spirit in search of adventure. She knows only what she does not want.

One chance encounter with a celebrated painter Juan Antonio leads them down unexpected paths. Juan Antonio invites the girls spontaneously to a weekend getaway, to Vicky’s initial reproach and Cristina’s delight. But they go along, taking in the sights and sounds of the cities of Gaudi and Miro, their fascination a vicarious expression of Woody Allen’s own with the city’s many delights- art, music, culture and most importantly, passion as embodied by Juan Antonio and his subsequent romantic dalliances with both Vicky and Cristina.

The sense of romanticism about Barcelona is really therefore ripe fodder for Allen’s pet musings of the ironies of life and love. The once-sure Vicky will be left questioning the wisdom of her marriage, her heart tugging in a different direction after a passionate night with Juan. And the once-unsure Cristina will find her place with Juan Antonio, moving into his house and beginning what seems a stable relationship.

Knowing Allen, however, such a happy ending for Cristina would be too easy. Instead, just when Cristina thinks she has her life figured in, in comes Juan Antonio’s fiery ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), the two as Juan would put it 'are meant for each other and not meant for each other'. "It’s a contradiction," Juan adds.

Relinquishing his infamous bob from his award-winning turn in "No Country For Old Men", Javier Bardem plays it cool and charming as Juan Antonio. He injects much charisma and allure into his character, making sure that Juan Antonio is never just a cinematic stereotype of the passionate Latin lover. He is matched most competently by the fiery Ms Cruz. Though only appearing in the second half of the film, she steals every scene she’s in, relishing her role as the sizzling, fierce and intense Maria Elena.

Between Vicky and Cristina, Rebecca Hall’s performance as Vicky is the more endearing to watch. Hall fills her character with a palpable sense of doubt and longing, her dilemma at once reminiscent of the quandary we often face between what the heart feels and the mind knows. Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, plays Cristina 'Woody Allen-lite', the mildly neurotic person she played with more zest in her earlier Allen collaboration, Scoop.

Woody Allen’s writing here as usual brims with his dry wit and humour. He chooses to tell the story with a third-person narration, which may seem a little intrusive at first but in fact helps weave the story fluidly. The voice may belong to actor Christopher Evan Welch, but the words no doubt belong rightfully to Allen himself.

As it is, Vicky Cristina Barcelona probably doesn’t stand up to Allen’s best works. Still, the dialogue sparkles, the scenery is magnificent, and the actors are appealing. Allen is out to amuse us and make us ponder over the nature of love and passion, though not in a deep way. The result of which is an entertaining trifle, but hey, Allen at his mid-range is still way better than a lot of other stuff that’s out there at the movies.

Movie Rating:

(As London once did, Barcelona has revived the creative juices of Woody Allen, and his latest of Vicky and Cristina in Barcelona is just the proof of that)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

. Cassandra's Dream (2007)

. Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)

. No Country for Old Men (2007)

. The Nanny Diaries (2007)

. Volver (2006)

. Scoop (2006)

. The Sea Inside (2004)

. Bandidas DVD (2006)


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