Through my eye

A sometimes caustic view of things.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A review of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

I usually can't stand Woody Allen movies, even his best, a few of which I sat through when I was younger. Barcelona, however is a city that I love and, based on pre-release publicity, that Allen said Barcelona was a character in his film, I decided to view it.

True, there are images from many sites within the city, but none with more than a pinched, anemic view of the scenery. Barcelona is a city of bright daylight (except when it rains) and brightly illuminated spots of activity in the darkness of night.

It does not have a golden glow day and night as Allen filmed it, probably trying to make it seem more romantic. Unfortunately, even with capable actors, he could not recreate the very real atmosphere of heat and romance the city exhibits.

In fact, Allen's film-making is as archaic as his view of photography, based on his narration within the movie about what makes art in photography--that only film could produce the full potential of art.

And that narration begins the movie and ends the movie and pops up throughout the movie, often in scenes where he could have freed the actors to express the emotions and personal changes that he describes so unnecessarily.

Allen, as writer, director and narrator, is pretentious and overbearing. It is fortunate that most of the acting overcame his attempt to control every aspect of the movie. Javier Bardem proved that natural talent can overcome a bad script and Penelope Cruz was even stronger than Bardem.

Scarlett Johansson tried to rise above the direction but couldn't get a handle on how to play her character of Cristina. Rebecca Hall, as Vicky, was assigned the task of being Allen's alter ego, so she had to imitate all his mannerisms and insecurities and be his on-screen voice, despite the problem of her being female, instead of the scrawny male schmuck she sounded like.

Lastly, the premise of the movie, that morals have no place in real life and that all love dies at some point, so you might as well do what you want as opportunity arises, is as unsatisfactory as the outcome of all the relationships depicted in the movie.

This is not a return of Allen's talent as some have said, but another step down in his long fall to irrelevance.

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