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Saturday, 17 January 2009

Vicky Christina Barcelona


These days it's hard to know for sure what you'll be getting with a Woody Allen movie. For one thing, you may not be getting a trip to the cinema: more than one of his recent films didn't even score a release in Australia. For another, you're probably not getting a chance to see Woody himself, as he's narrowed his appearances down to maybe one film in two. And the film's he's not in seem to be the ones that work of late - for example, he's nowhere to be seen in front of the cameras in Vicky Christina Barcelona, and it's his best film since Match Point. His New York days behind him, Allen set his latest story in Spain, where Christina (Rebecca Hall), a solid, respectable, engaged young woman and her flighty, sensuous best friend Vicky (Scarlett Johansson) are on holiday. It doesn't take long for the pair to fall into the orbit of a scandal-plagued local sculptor (Javier Barden), who promptly invites the pair to spend the weekend with him in his home town. They agree, Vicky seems happy to sleep with him, Christina seems just as happy to steer well clear, and from there things both do and do not proceed as you might expect. Despite all the talk of passion this has a faintly mechanical feel to the plotting (the uneven performances don't help - Barden is excellent, the girls not so much), as characters move together then apart while Allen tests the various permutations of their emotions as they play off against each other. Which, if you believe in love as some kind of external magical force that binds people together forever, might not be your cup of tea. But if you believe that love is simply something that happens between two (or more) people and is an extension of their personalities and natures, then there's a lot you'll find interesting in Allen's well thought-out games.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #443)