Saturday, July 31, 2010

Woody in Barcelona

Until yesterday, it must have been years that I hadn’t seen a Woody Allen movie, and probably would have been longer had I noticed his name on the DVD box I picked up at the library. Hard to remember now which one it was that finally turned me off Woody Allen movies. If I recall accurately, it was a string of ‘written by-directed by’ Woody Allen pictures made in the 1990s, full of his familiar Jewish angst and paranoia, and the overly nervous tics that define his type of New Yorker—It was these things that ultimately drove me away.

Without giving it much thought I checked out from the library a movie on DVD of something called Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Never occurred to me that it was a movie written and directed by Woody Allen and I was completely surprised when his name popped up on the opening credits. For a moment there I worried that I might not last through ninety minutes of Mr Allen’s mannerisms and directorial trademarks. Thank goodness he kept himself out of the acting this time. The only hint of his usual tricks in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the occasional scene in which the actors talk over each other in quick improvisational-like dialogue. This time he wisely kept it to a minimum. Perhaps he realized with the actors he had that noisy, naturalistic chatter-acting was unnecessary. Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Patricia Clarkson are each special and wonderful in this romantic comedy with complications.

My point is actually not to review the film, or tell the story, but more to applaud Mr Allen for his choice of music. After seeing the movie I went straight to Borders for a soundtrack CD. Since the entire picture is set in Barcelona, the obvious choice was a background of Spanish music. In the soundtrack liner notes Mr Allen writes, ‘I nosed around and picked up a few stray items here and there and by compiling the tunes of a few known players and composers with the tunes of relative unknowns, found myself with one of the most lovely scores in all of my films.’ I might agree with this last statement, and add that while his movies have often had components I didn’t care for, the music in any Woody Allen film I’ve ever seen has always been the strongpoint.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a delight, and definitely a memorable work among the long list of Woody Allen films. If nothing else, get your hands on the soundtrack. It’s one I predict you’ll want to play again and again.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America