Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – My parents met in Spain. My mother was stationed at Torrejón Air Base and my father had been travelling around Europe since leaving the Army. After my mom got out of the Air Force, they lived in Spain for a while before travelling to other parts of Europe and then moving back to California to start a family, which I think we can all agree was a great decision. So naturally my whole life I’ve been hearing about what a wonderful, magical, and romantic place Spain is. Barcelona in particular. After decades of making films in New York City, in the late 2000s Woody Allen had recently started making movies in Europe. He had just come off of three films in a row filmed in the United Kingdom (Match Point, Scoop, and Cassandra’s Dream, ranking great, okay, and pretty good respectively) and was now going to make one in Barcelona.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are American tourists on a trip to Spain, where Vicky is working on her master’s thesis in “Catalan identity.” Cristina is just there to embrace life after an unsatisfying foray into short film-making. They stay with Vicky’s aunt and uncle (Patricia Clarkson and Kevin Dunn) and take in the sights. Before long they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) who wants to whisk them away to an island called Oviedo and make love to both of them. Vicky, who is engaged to a guy named Doug (Chris Messina) is taken aback but Cristina is interested. Once on Oviedo, Cristina gets sick and Vicky does end up falling for Juan Antonio’s charms but the next day decides to pretend nothing happened. Juan Antonio and Cristina become an item, but soon a major complication arises in the form of María Elena (Penélope Cruz), Juan Antonio’s volatile ex-wife.

In movies like Match Point, Midnight in Paris, and To Rome with Love, Woody seems to shower European cities with the same love he’s been showing to New York through his films for decades. The city of Barcelona gets no less treatment, with the art of Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró being showcased prominently. Woody tends to return to the same subjects a lot through his many many films but he usually manages to make it feel fresh. Vicky Cristina Barcelona focuses on the mercurial nature of passion. Cristina goes through life, in the words of the narrator (Christopher Evan Welch), “knowig only what she DIDN’T want.” María Elena characterizes this as “chronic dissatisfaction.” If we go through life chasing only that which sets our passions alight, how will we ever be content to remain with one thing long enough to build something meaningful. It’s a thought that has popped up in other Woody Allen movies such as Everyone Says I Love You and The Purple Rose of Cairo. I don’t care if Woody makes twenty more movies about the same thing, as long as he can keep them coming at this level of quality. The acting is across-the-board strong. The movie looks amazing, courtesy of cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe. Woody’s direction is superb. This movie’s great. Check it out.

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