Rather sheepishly, I must admit that last week when V and I were at a loose end and scouting for a movie to watch, I read the blurb of Vicky Christina Barcelona and smirked. My first thought was – why do they even bother to keep making films like this? Can’t they even add a twist somewhere? My second was – and what kind of title is that? Can’t they put more effort into making it sound interesting (I’m a title-whore. If a book has an interesting title, I have to read it, even if the blurb sounds crappy).
Then, yesterday I discovered it’s a Woody Allen film.
Now that’s different. I’m not a snob about films, or even novels. I’m always up for a good chick flick. But it has to be good. It has to have that little something that causes the feel-good factor at the end of it. The almost but not quite cheesy lines. The good looking people. Of course, the happy ending.
But. If a movie has a crap sounding blurb and an even prosaic-er title, then it helps to have a respected director. Then, the intellectual snob in me rears its head and gives the thing a chance.
Here, I must admit that I haven’t actually seen and loved a Woody Allen film. I caught snatches of one mad black and white musical type film which featured and enormous family (someone please remind me what it’s called so I can try and watch the whole thing) and I was charmed. But that’s the extent of my Allen appreciation. But enough film courses have taught me that these star directors are generally worth it, they generally live up to their legendary status even if I, in my humble ineptitude, cannot always keep my eyes open through the length of their masterpieces.
Of course, my ship had sailed. After letting go of the one chance in hell I had of getting V to go for what sounded like an outright chick flick, there was no way I could backtrack and convince him to go on the intellectual card. Especially on the intellectual card.
But V was leaving for India today – yes again! – and I thought that instead of disconsolately twiddling my thumbs, I would seize the day.
And the verdict is – ignore the title, go watch the film. Because:
1) It is set in a Barcelona awash with sunlight and Barcelona, even without the golden haze, is beautiful.
2) It has Scarlett Johansson (who I realised, rather belatedly, can actually act besides looking delectable), Penelope Cruz (who I again, rather belatedly realised, is actually beautiful while always having been able to act) and Rebecca Hall (who is a brunette, to make us all feel better, and still beautiful). Rather disconcertingly, it has Javier Bardem who can actually be hot when he is not playing a serial killer. He’s still a bit too rugged for me in theory but in practice I would do him.
3) It has this voice-over thing which would probably be called cheesy if anyone but Allen was doing it. (This is where Allen fans can jump in and call me a moron and tell me this is his signature but I already said that I haven’t watched any other of his films so there!) It lends the film a naive quality and yet, absolutely works, especially at the end. I enjoyed that it didn’t try to be overly clever.
4) The greatness of the film is the very thing I smirked at at the outset. The premise is absolutely simple to the extent that if you just read the blurb, as I did, you’d be hard pressed not to smirk too. There’s an intellectual, cynical, pragmatic, attractive brunette (Vicky/Rebecca Hall) and a bohemian, whimsial, sexually open, slightly naive, stunning blonde (Christina/Scarlett). Essentially, the film is an expose of these two personalities as they are played off against the canvas of one man – Javier Bardem, who plays a smoking hot painter who openly tries to seduce both of them. Into the mix, add Penelope Cruz as the crazed ex-wife, though this only provides dark comic relief. And the probable anti-moral of the story – that relationships that work may be outside the dualistic heterosexaul norm.
What gives the film it’s force is what gives every film it’s force – the ability to make you emphathise with it’s dilemma. Which is – as the Chinese girl who recommended the film to me the night before said – “am I a Vicky or am I a Christina”.
Quite early, I decided that I was a Vicky. Her reaction of Javier’s proposition was exactly what mine would’ve been. Her reaction to him was exactly what mine would’ve been. Later I wavered. Some of Christina’s decisions were mine. But then as Vicky progressed I realised I was her – I had all the possibilities of rebellion inherent in her and I had allowed myself exactly the same kinds of deviations as she did, I had/have the same waverings.
I also have the same reaction to the Christina’s in my life. I am rather impatient with the excessively bohemian posturings. Only, I realised through the films, the Christina’s not only believe in the dream of a poetic life, in their moments of hesitation, they overcome them to go with the dream rather than let sanity take over. They are authentic not because of their inherent and implicit divergence from the norm but because of their choices in moments of crisis (how existential!). And I have new respect for that.
What is disconcerting about being Vickie is her final choice. It got me wondering if that was my choice too. Ah well. I must stop making everything in the movies be about me.