I want to write about this while my Easter vacation trip to Barcelona is still fresh in the memory. It is a city dripping with enthusiasm. Many replicas of New York and Paris and Venice are scattered around the globe. Barcelona is quite new compared to other cities with unique identities. And it stands out for its refreshing attitude to everything. (Though personally, I didn’t get good food (I won’t curse vegetarianism), and it was sunny only for half of my stay.) But Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona surely made more sense to me after a trip to Barcelona.
Vicky Christina Barcelona struck me as a rough title. But it conveys the absence of grammar in life and relationships of its characters. However, the movie has a structure of its own. In a weird way (don’t know if intentional or not), Gaudi’s unusual architecture provides perfect symbolic background to many of the important scenes in the movie.
The quintessential narrator of Woody Allen’s movie is present here as well with his mellow sarcastic pinches. The movie starts with Vicky and Christina, two highly different individuals but best friends from the US, landing in Barcelona for spending their summer. Vicky is engaged to be married and Christina is eternally in search of an artistic medium to express herself and in the process follows all those rules of being a neurotic.
Both Vicky and Christina bump into a popular, recently divorced, Spanish painter Juan Antonio, who frankly tells them, he is attracted to both of them. Vicky stays uptight and refuses his advances while Christina is ready to go with the flow.
Three of them go on a spontaneous visit to Oviedo, and as our story teller will have it, Vicky ends up having a one night stand with Juan Antonio and her planned, structured life comes crashing. Christina on the other hand, ends up having a longer relationship with the Bohemian artist and his ex-wife.
All three of them, Vicky, Christina and Juan Antonio are sort of one dimensional, defined, flat, caricatures. The only alive and throbbing character in the movie is of Juan Antonio’s crazy ex-wife Maria Elena. She appears at the half way of the movie like a shooting star. (Penelope Cruz deserves that Oscar.) She is the epitome of messed up creativity. She oozes exuberance and constant need to express herself. She seems ready to burst out at any minute, at every minute. She is impossible to live with, but Juan Antonio can not live without her at the same time. Her tantrums are fun to watch.
Everything gets more and more messy in an unpredictable way leading to a structured ending in this Romantic Comedy. Vicky’s side of life represents all those who want a li’l bit of craziness in life but think that they would rather be practical. While Christina is all about that scary freedom that is more thought of than put in action. The cast, Xavier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall, performs well, but it is Penelope who casts a large shadow.
Still it is not one of those better Woody Allen movies. I missed the one-liners and the biting sarcasm and a lot of other regular elements. But then it was not set at a regular place. The movie has its own colour and moral tone. There are a lot of places where two girls could have gone to spend vacation, fall for a bohemian artist and his wife, but Allen couldn’t have chosen a better city to portray a completely different aspect of relationships.
Christina goes about clicking pictures of flowers and antiques at little shops on La Rambla while Vicky is busy going from Gaudi’s one building to another. Spanish-Catalan culture is woven into the movie so well, it almost feels educative in places to people who have never heard of it before.
The run-of-the-mill rules do not apply to city of Barcelona and the rules of relationships do not apply to Vicky Christina Barcelona.