Cannes 2008: Vicky Cristina Barcelona Press Conference

The press conference for Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a packed affair. Buzz on the film has been mostly positive, and most of those trying to get in were, unfortunately, shut out. The line of press trying to get shots of Allen and the cast walking in was an utter madhouse; picture something akin to a prison riot, with a mob of press stomping on feet, shoving with elbows, and generally doing their damnedest to jostle into position in the hopes of scoring one or two decent shots in the 15 or so seconds you have to point and click.

I had my foot crushed by a large Belgian woman who muscled her way to the front of the pack on my right, and got smacked quite hard in the head by a Chinese photojournalist’s video camera. Working a film fest isn’t always quite the glamorous event one might imagine.

Once things got started, we were able to watch from the screen inside the press suite, which, while not quite the same as being in there, was an adequate substitute. Allen was quite affable and candid in talking about the film, in particular responding to questions about whether he’d deliberately tried to turn the male-female relationship dichotomy on it’s head with the film.

Allen talked about how he feels that Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem’s character in the film) is an inherently decent character who simply wants to have a good time with these two lovely young ladies, but when he finds himself attracted to Vicky more than just sexually, decides to back away rather than creating a more complicated situation. She is engaged to be married, he doesn’t want to get in the way of that, and moreover, doesn’t want to get hurt himself, should he pursue more and find that she’s unwilling to break off her engagement.

Allen also talked about the tragic-comedy aspects of Vicky Cristina, noting that, while he hopes there are funny moments in the film that will get some laughs, by the end of the film the focus is on the tragic elements (I won’t give more in here on exactly what he said about that, because they would totally spoil the film’s ending).

Questioned about shooting in Barcelona, Allen raved about what a fabulous time he had shooting the film there, how lovely the city is, how professional the Spanish crew was, and how the shoot and the months he spent living there were fantastic.

Allen brushed aside a question about whether it was true that Spanish directors were upset with Allen over the reported 1 million Euros in financing for the film given him by the Spanish government, saying that “I know nothing about the financing of my films,” and that he was simply offered the opportunity to make a film in Barcelona, and agreed to do so. He said that, so far as he is aware, there is no backlash from Spanish directors aimed at him, and quipped that while the press might like to believe that, and make more of it than it is, it simply isn’t so.

Asked by a Uzbekistanian press member whether Allen might someday consider shooting a film in Uzbekistan, Allen said that he’d traveled to Russia once, years ago, and had such a bad experience there that he immediately told his travel agent to get him out immediately, no matter where he had to go. He laughingly described himself as a “nervous traveler,” but allowed that things there have probably changed since then.

Actress Rebecca Hall, who plays Vicky, was on hand, and seemed charmingly embarrassed when a journalist said that she is the talk of the film, and that people came out of it wanting to know who this wonderful actress is. She talked about auditioning for the part, finding out two weeks later that Allen wanted to cast her in the film, and that of course she said yes, because working with Allen was a great opportunity.

Penelope Cruz, looking stunningly lovely as one might expect, talked also about the opportunity to work with Allen, and also about being reunited on camera with Javier Bardem, who she said she loves working with because he’s a fantastic answer, and that she’d love to work with him again. Asked which directors or other projects she’d like to work on, she slipped in that she’d like to work with Scorsese — that could be interesting.

The only question Cruz didn’t really answer was about the “lesbian kiss scene” between herself and Scarlett Johansson. She said with a sigh that she’s been asked that question four times already today, and that she hasn’t had a good answer to it and so has declined to answer it. She said that she’d asked herself, “what would Woody Allen say?” in response to that question, and she still doesn’t know … and so once again politely declined.

Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells slipped in a question to Allen about his newest film, a comedy with Larry David. Typically closed-mouthed about films in production, Allen would reveal only that he’s shooting in New York, has about two weeks left on the shoot, and that this film is a straight comedy, not a romantic comedy. The film, he said, centers on neurotic characters (in a Woody Allen film? Surely you jest …) played by Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood and Patrica Clarkson, that he himself is not in the film, and that he hopes it will make audiences laugh — if it doesn’t, he quipped with a shrug, then “I will have failed.”

Allen said that he regretted that Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem were unable to be here today (Bardem, Allen said, has “family troubles”), but that there will be other opportunities to talk them about the film toward the film’s release. Vicky Cristina Barcelona opens in the US on September 5; I highly recommend it. I have a slew of photos from the conference that I’ll put up later tonight when I’m back at the flat and can get them downloaded, so be sure to check back later.


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