Directed by: Woody Allen
Countries & Regions: Spain, United States
Length: 96 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 22 June 2009
Cat No: OPTD1574
Screen ratio 1:1.85
Dolby Digital 5.1
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Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen writes and directs this romantic comedy drama, his fourth consecutive film to be shot outside the United States. When two... Read More
We are glad to report that Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody’s sunny, escapist Spanish delight, is that much talked-of and much hoped-for ‘return to form’. Even the most ardent Woody Allen fan has had to admit, in recent years, that there were, in fact, such things as ‘lesser’ Woody Allen films. Although opinion was fairly positive for his first London outing, Match Point, a sort of Hitchcock-esque tennis drama populated by the landed gentry, two subsequent outings – Scoop and, particularly, Cassandra’s Dream – saw Allen gather the worst reviews of his career so far.
With its title – Vicky Cristina Barcelona – initially wrongfooting you by leading you to believe that there will be an eponymous central character, the film then introduces bright but cautious Vicky (played by Rebecca Hall, latterly of Frost/Nixon and Red Riding) and sexually adventurous Cristina (played by Woody’s latest muse, Scarlett Johansson), two girlfriends holidaying in Barcelona. Approached over an intimate meal by Javier Bardem’s swarthy and vivacious painter, Juan Antonio, and invited away for the weekend, Vicky and Cristina enter into a playful dosey-do that sees each of them dally with the charismatic painter.
So far, so Woody Allen you might say. Where the film really comes into its own, however, is in the introduction of Juan Antonio’s tempestuous ex, Maria Elena, a performance that bagged Penélope Cruz a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The fireworks generated by the pairing of Bardem and Cruz transports the film firmly into Almodóvar territory – albeit Almodóvar by way of Eric Rohmer – and it’s all the better for it. Of course the scenery is breathtaking (the architecture and the cuisine are as much a character as the girls themselves), of course the girls find themselves awe-struck by the culture and of course there is a Woody-type character (in the main played by Vicky but ably supported by Christopher Evan Welch’s narration); all taken together, this makes for a fine Woody Allen film indeed.
Many of his recent works have been hailed as a return to form and the rest rightly dismissed as terrible - this is his best film in at least 10 years.
The film follows two American girls - the titular Vicky and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) - during their extended summer in Barcelona. They soon encounter the very Spanish Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a bohemian painter who invites them to go away for the weekend. Penelope Cruz appears later on as Juan Antonio’s crazy ex-wife and utterly steals the show with a breathtakingly vivid performance that deserves to win a slew of awards. The film deftly deals with seduction, by other people and also by other ways of life.
There's a confident air to this film that befits the quality of the material. It's no Annie Hall, but then what is? So, Allen fans, don't be afraid - come out of hiding!