Woody Allen… In Vicky Cristina Barcelona he writes some of the best dialogue he’s written in years. His words roll from the mouths of these beautiful and talented actors and you wonder perhaps, maybe this was improvised, but it wasn’t.
Allen’s dabblings into commitment-phobes, people whose desires and passions are more their worst enemies than inspiration for greatness, has truly been sparked by the passion and romance he may have found in Spain. Unlike his usual still camera work, the camera here wanders in and out of focus and sways gently back and forth sometimes catching the actors’ faces just on the edge of the screen. Watching this film is like having a perpetual buzz from a delicious wine.
By staying true to the characters and avoiding anything “cute”, he’s created a true anti-romantic comedy. There are humorous moments here, tones that are so dark and dead pan that they will fly over most peoples’ heads. Moments which I laughed at quite loudly. But for the most part, Allen seems pretty serious about his intentions. Even when his intentions are a little lost and linger a little too long, and in the worst moments feels as hollow as a 15-year-old fantasizing about what he’d like to have happen to him, but the film only briefly treads these waters.
Thematically Allen is having a discussion with himself. It’s almost like he has his own personal Fight Club in the characters of Vicky (a commitment heavy Rebecca Hall willing to live in mediocrity for the rest of her life), Cristina (a wandering soul Scarlett Johansson, who only knows what she isn’t looking for) and Juan Antonio (the wounded artist Javier Bardem whispering somewhere in between the two).
Is it those that break every boundary of the conventional coupling for the sake of passion that will find happiness or those that regardless of true passion and love but with a zest for commitment end up the happier. For a brief moment each character walks the edge of happiness, and those brief moments are filled with more romantic energy and intoxicating romance then ever I’ve seen in a Woody Allen film, or almost any film in recent years. And that romance feels real. but when dealing with reality not everything is happy, shiny…amidst all this beauty there beats an ambivalent heart that matches anything Ingmar Bergman could have created in his life time.
Though the settings and locales remain beautiful the characters stress and fret about what could make everything better. It’s a keen look at the world around us today when no one is satistied with what they have and everyone has one foot on the threshhold ready to leave.
Allen gives us no answers, but leaves us wondering if anything at all is worth it. Trying to date in LA I wonder the same thing sometimes. Thanks for the confirmation, my East Coast friend!