Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

A good review of Vicky Cristina Barcelona on Ron Silliman's Blog

Saw it tonight... as good as Match Point.

The first half, you have to pick up on the irony of the voice over.... a return of the old Woody Allen humor but way toned down into irony a lot of reviews take as absolutely straight. Then half way through the film, Penelope Cruz comes on with an explosion of energy that lifts the film to a whole new level... it would have been flat without her. She carries the film... and the acting all around is suburb. He's gotten to the level of Hitchcock--where he can mine his own conventions and give them little twists and turns in new directions. It's Annie Hall and Manhattan revisited... but reinvented... without Woody Allen in the center. He's not trying to be Bergman anymore. He's comfortable enough now to forgo the need to lean on the Masters--to let himself fade into the background and let his actors (and as always... his cinematographers and sound people) do the work.

The humor has returned in a very different form... not incidental that he's chosen European settings... it has the feel of a French romantic comedy... with a very dark, and very American edge. Yes, there's something of James here. Allen's Americans abroad phase. I heard echoes of Portrait of a Lady, of The Americans--but in a medium Allen has made his own. Allen has as strong a relationship to the literary sources he draws from as any film maker I can think of... but his translations are so purely redrawn into film... that I can believe that this is how he reads... as though he were watching a movie. For anyone who is not a film maker, that would be an insult.

For Allen, it's what and who he is.


  1. I haven't seen this film, but I absolutely hated Match Point. I made myself finish watching it, but it was painful. Everything was poorly acted, and the story itself was so ridiculously unsurprising. And SJ seemed perpetually on the verge of forgetting her lines altogether.

    I'd be open to hearing an alternate assessment though.

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  3. I sometimes have odd tastes in movies--I love Ken Russell, what can I say?

    The word that comes to mind for VCB is mannered. The voice-over, the narrative itself, the acting (except for Cruz). Allen is clearly working through films of the 30's and 40's--the mannered acting style, or rather, a mannered style, different in form, but alike in it's anti-method naturalism. David Mamet does this too, another example of a mannered style.

    One of the things that fascinates me when I watch a film like Casablanca. People don't talk like that. The movement and gestures are in some ways as stylized as Kabuki.. a remnant of silent films.
    When it is consistent, when it works, as it does in Casablanca, or Citizen Kane; there is a physical tension--one feels suspended between the illusion and awareness of the unreality--the never quite invisible artifice.

    Of the three women central to VCB, Rebecca Hall wears this style well. Johnsson is still doing Allenesque tics (what might look like almost forgetting her lines)--hasn't quite made the style her own.