Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Wonderful Woody

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by Patrick O’Connor

AN amazing character, Woody Allen.

At the age of 73, he is still churning the sort of films which fill art-house cinemas around the world but rarely trouble the top 10 box-office charts.

He is dismissive of Hollywood’s obsession with ‘money-making films’ and for that we should be grateful.

As an actor, he is no Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt (thankfully) but as a creative artist, he is still a mighty talent.

His latest offering as a director/writer, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, once again illustrates his unique, wordy but fascinating style.

You don’t go to a Woody Allen film for the special effects, you go to watch Allen’s interpretation of how men and women interact.

Allen has always had the knack of writing glorious roles for women and this film is no exception.

Even at his grand age, he can still get his female characters to talk with such insight. How does he do it?

Maybe being around young women has helped keep Allen youthful in his outlook.

His 1979 film Manhattan, for which he received a best screenplay Oscar nomination, was inspired by his relationship with 17 year old student Stacey Nelkin.

In 1997 he married the adopted daughter of his ex-partner Mia Farrow, Soon-Yi-Previn. Their relationship had begun when Allen was 56 and Soon-Yi-Previn was 22.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona follows the exploits of two young Americans played by Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall who are spending the summer in Barcelona.

Despite being good friends, they have very different personalities and attitudes to sex and relationships (Hall’s character is engaged).

They come to the attention of an amorous painter played by Javier Bardem (in a role far removed from his chilling, Oscar winning performance as the assassin in No Country for Old Men).

He persuades the girls to come with him to Oviedo where a complex but intriguing mating ritual unfolds.

Allen’s interplay between the characters, together with lovely glimpses of sunny Spanish settings, has you transfixed.

It all rambles on at a sedate but satisfying pace but then this master craftsman throws in a delicious bonus in the shape of Penelope Cruz as the artist’s manic but adorable ex-wife.

The film goes into overdrive when she arrives on the scene after a failed suicide attempt.

She bewilders and bedazzles the trio and we are captivated.

It is a wonderful performance and Cruz’s Oscar nomination for best supporting actress was no surprise.

Allen has received 21 Oscar nominations in his time, 14 of them as screenwriter and has picked up the statue on three occasions.

His 1977 classic Annie Hall won four Oscars including best picture and best actress for Diane Keaton and there are thespians galore who would give their eye teeth for a role in a Woody Allen film.

Many of his earlier movies have revolved around his love affair with New York and especially Manhattan but in recent years he has ventured abroad for inspiration.

Match Point (2005) was set in London and following that, Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream were also based in the capital city.

Switching his attention to Spain and especially the vibrant Barcelona was a wise move. It has been suggested that Allen will use Europe as a setting in future films. Can’t wait!

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