Vicky Cristina Barcelona: When Woody Allen Meets Scarlett Johansson

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Title: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Director: Woody Allen
Language: English, Spanish
Year: 2008
Critical Reception: Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the film, kudos from major critics including Village Voice's Scott Foundas, The New Yorker's David Denby, Variety's Todd McCarthy, appearance on some year end top 10 lists.
Psych Index: Gender, Intimate
In Brief: It would seem that despite our wantons, we are a creature of habit, unable to break out of the social ties we entangled ourselves in. At least, that was the picture depicted here by Woody Allen, whose love life was a true taboo-ridden tabloid heaven. It was no surprise to see him grappling with the struggle between doing what looked right and doing what felt right. Vicky was a continuation of this depiction, and no new ground was broken here that was not covered in Match Point, except for perhaps the idea of a third wheel being the stabling point for a volatile relationship and an all-too-brief famous kissing scene that made titillated boys of Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz’s fans everywhere. I am not beyond jumping into a threesome involving these women. Did I mention that Javier Bardem was part of this scenario? Try saying no to that.
Comment (SPOILERS ALERT):
At first, I thought Vicky Christina Barcelona was a romance novel on screen, complete with erotic, juicy romancing in exotic places. Closer inspection would prove me incorrect, however. Romance novels tend to have two things in them that Vicky deviated from: a female narrator and an optimistic ending. The third person narrator allowed the film to be framed like a picture in a different world – a world pregnant with possibilities that may be a tiny bit far-fetched in this world. The cynicism of its conclusion complicated its warm, breezy, pink-laced feel of anything-goes romanticism. It would seem that despite our wantons, we are a creature of habit, unable to break out of the social ties we entangled ourselves in. At least, that was the picture depicted here by Woody Allen, whose love life was a true taboo-ridden tabloid heaven. It was no surprise to see him grappling with the struggle between doing what looked right and doing what felt right. Vicky was a continuation of this depiction, and no new ground was broken here that was not covered in Match Point, except for perhaps the idea of a third wheel being the stabling point for a volatile relationship and an all-too-brief famous kissing scene that made titillated boys of Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz’s fans everywhere. I am not beyond jumping into a threesome involving these women. Did I mention that Javier Bardem was part of this scenario? Try saying no to that.

This mini review was actually meant to highlight what Cristina uttered in one moment of brutal honesty: she was not gifted in the same way Maria Elena was, though she could appreciate what art was. In some ways, one could see her being the mouth-piece for Woody himself, who often found himself toiled in some circles in the shadow of his favourite filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman. Bergman was a master of chamber cinema depicting relationship struggles involving the self’s deepest wantons, not unlike Woody’s chosen cinematic frame. I could not help but thought of Bergman as the Maria Elena to Woodys’ Cristina, and similarly, filmmakers being the Maria Elena to film critics’ Cristina. This was a passionate thank-you to muses everywhere. As we discovered in the film, Cristina did have an unexpected gift or two in her, waiting for the inspiration of spring to blossom. Sometimes, a touch of passion is all you need to kindle the fire within. Even if in the end our habits got the best of us, we would’ve known what it was like to be awaken. There’s no unringing the bell, and our life is that much richer for having known it, even if we’re no less lost than when we began.

The question remained though, what to make of the women in this film? Was he accurate in his depictions of women’s inner lives? Which of these women do you tend to identify yourself with? Is it fair to say they are all shades of every woman? Would you have said no to the proposition?

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