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VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

Director: WOODY ALLEN

SPAIN-U.S.A. • 2008 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 96 MIN


WRITE OFF WOODY ALLEN AT YOUR PERIL, SINCE THIS LATEST FROM THE GRAND MASTER OF UPSCALE ROMANTIC COMEDY IS EASILY HIS BEST IN A DECADE.
Having forsaken the streets of Manhattan for London and now sunny Catalonia, he turns in a story reminiscent of a latterday Henry James, following the misadventures of two American girls over a fateful summer. In Barcelona to continue her studies, Rebecca Hall’s Vicky seems an eminently sensible type with a staid fiance waiting on her back in NYC, whereas Scarlett Johansson’s Cristina is a free-spirited photographer relishing the adventuresome opportunities on offer away from home. Which, of course, present themselves in the form of Javier Bardem’s charismatic artist, who invites both friends for a weekend of (ahem) art appreciation. He soon has Johansson falling for his patter — but behind her sceptical façade, Hall’s pulse is quickening too. All the situation now requires is the arrival of his volatile ex, Penelope Cruz, a woman of fiery passions… and a history of psychotic violence!
Its wry observations on human foibles deftly set off by a knowing novelistic narration, Allen’s film may (understandably) succumb to the touristy temptations of curvaceous Gaudi architecture and strummed Spanish guitars, but it’s also an attractive context for delightful performances attuned to the humour of each moment. With Cruz and Bardem having a ball sending up their ‘Latin lover’ types, there’s abundant laughter here, a little melancholy too, and some astute pondering as to why our heads often say one thing but our hearts desire another. Woody is back, and this is a genuine tonic. — Trevor Johnston.

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