Sunday, September 14, 2008

Flashback to the Start of a Vacuous Future: Vicki Cristina Barcelona.


Saw "Vicki Cristina Barcelona" last week. It was exactly what I expected, no more no less. What did I expect? Lot's of talking (Woody Allen wrote and directed); good camera work, tight shots of beautiful young people; plenty of exits for Scarlett Johansson (Allen likes Johansson's ass, and so do I. We can’t be alone in this.)

The movie is a character study of moneyed, educated, not so tortured, artistic wannabe people, making choices during one period of their lives. Many people will hate this movie for that reason alone. There’s also an effete narrator throughout pivotal parts of the story, most notably at the beginning and the end.

As the movie closes and Vicki and Cristina leave Barcelona, he sums up their choices, heralding their not-so-rosy future. The movie works as a flashback for me. It’s also a statement on where the director/writer is in his life, and where he has been. Who is better able to describe a certain class of women in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and examine the choices they made in their 20’s and write a story about it, much less get Scarlett Johansson to play one of the leads? Not every story has to have miserable, struggling people with a huge point to make about LIFE.

Javier Bardem, with very much the same equanimity as he displayed playing the serial killer in "No Country for Old Men,"(but with a better haircut) plays a sexy artist with Whoa! Money. Be still my heart. But although he seems to be the focal point (read: phallus) around which Vicki and Cristina spin (along with Penelope Cruz, the only semi-tortured soul in the movie, who unfortunately comes off as a hot-blooded stereotype who takes herself too seriously; maybe all stereotypes do that), the central characters in this movie are the ones in the title: Vicki, Cristina and Barcelona.

Like the 1994 movie “Barcelona” and 2001’s “Gaudi Afternoon,” the title of Allen’s movie reserves the best for last. It was a return to my dream city for me. I went to Spain with a girlfriend in 2004. My Barcelona was filled with art, but no phalluses, I mean artists. We spent a lot of time trying not to eat dried tuna tapas. The city did seem devoid of serious thought. In Madrid and Seville and Granada there were banners hung from apartment balconies saying, No a la Guerra (no on the war; Iraq). In Barcelona, there’s probably an ordinance preventing such a display. Or maybe people are too busy having a good time.