Wednesday, April 08, 2009

vicky christina barcelona

Thought I'd add a rather late voice of support to the apparent consensus that Woody Allen's most recent film, Vicky Christina Barcelona, is a significant return to form and a rather good film. I watched it on the flight over to Boston and really enjoyed it, all the more because it seemed to have very little of the clunkiness of his 'British' films, and because, although the film's setting in Spain is hardly essential to the plot, it makes for some beautiful shots and ingenious casting - particularly Javier Bardem and Penolope Cruz, who give magnificent performances.

The film, like most of Allen's oeuvre, is concerned with the transitory, illusory - and yet essential - nature of love and relationships. Vicky and Christina, played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johannson respectively, spend a summer in Spain and fall under the spell of Bardem, who is a magnetic, fascinating artist painted initially as a womaniser but later sketched out into an appealing, sophisticated character. Christina, fascinated by Bardem and determined not to restricted by bourgeois or conventional expectations, embarks upon an impulsive but successful relationship with her lover and, later, his ex-wife, played with careering, reckless glee by Penelope Cruz. (Johannson, disappointingly, is below-par throughout).

Vicky, by contract - whose fascination with Bardem is tempered by her desire for a conventional marriage - is the real emotional centre of the film. For all the plaudits Cruz and Bardem have earned for their performances, it is Rebecca Hall's beautiful, precise portrayal of Vicky's cautious, agonised involvement which resonates. And which proves that Woody Allen is still capable of writing proper, grown up parts, and funny, worthwhile films.

Of course VCB is not up with his best, but it was the first one of his films I've seen in many years which left me feeling fully satisfied. Really hope it's a good omen for his future projects.

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