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.