Yesterday, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA reached LONDON thanks to BFI 52nd LONDON FILM FESTIVAL. The general release to UK cinemas will arrive on February 2009.

So I’ve been reading reviews from one of my favourite places. I will put here two revies and some photos of Penélope Cruz ( she was there, without Woody, Bardem, Scarlett, …):


Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the London Film Festival

Woody Allen’s latest comedy is a subtle spoof on the Don Juan myth and the funniest of the four films that he has assembled in Europe. You don’t have to see the joke to enjoy it, but it helps to explain the strange, operatic tone as two chalk-and-cheese beauties fall in love with an impossibly sexy libertine within seconds of arriving in Spain.

A droll voiceover – Christopher Evan Welch, who plays no direct part in the film, but keeps us at thinking distance – paints the first scene of this shameless fantasy. The prudish Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and her saucy best friend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), arrive in Barcelona for two summer months of galleries and sights. Vicky is compiling her postgraduate thesis on Catalan culture before returning home to marry a ghastly square called Doug (Chris Messina).

Cristina, an impulsive, busty blonde, is basically here for the ride. Her prayers are answered when a local artist and serial charmer, Juan Antonio, whisks the girls to his rural family retreat – by private plane – for an intimate weekend of fine wine and conversation. Cristina falls instantly under his spell; and, against every expensive Waspy nerve in her body, so does the grudging Vicky.

Javier Bardem is almost embarrassingly perfect as the guileless seducer who can effortlessly tune in to every secret female anxiety and desire without stealing an ounce of a woman’s dignity. His paint-spattered T-shirts and love of rustic pleasures – his father is something of an old goat too – play jealous havoc with Vicky and Cristina. His dark bedroom eyes and melodic memories of love and heartbreak are acted out against the most scrumptious countryside and city architecture. Sometimes you’re not quite sure whom to sleep with: the cast or the scenery.

Yes, we are a million miles from reality, but a mere six inches from Woody’s eternal obsession with sexual honesty: how it liberates and how it causes the most awful personal damage. In this respect Vicky Cristina Barcelona is much more adult than the operatic plot. The ménage à trois – which painfully pulls the girls apart – becomes a full-blown loony aria when Juan’s ex-wife, MarÍa (Penélope Cruz), suddenly turns up threatening to kill herself if Juan refuses to take her back. The blizzard of bitchy lines, subtitled in English and screamed in Catalan, about the sleeping arrangements is terrific.

It goes without saying that Juan Antonio and MarÍa are still madly in love, despite the knife attacks. What’s unexpected is that MarÍa is arguably more a force of nature than her exhusband. The actress is a sultry, sizzling joy as an utterly ungovernable Catalan firebrand, full of quicksilver anger and tenderness. Frankly, it would be hard to invent four more compelling star-crossed lovers. Allen might be in the midwinter of his career, but this is a vintage summer dream.


First Night: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, London Film Festival

(Rated 3/ 5 )

Woody produces a frothy Spanish fiesta of laughs

By Kaleem Aftab
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

So all Woody Allen needed was some Spanish sun to show he is still capable of producing an amusing comedy centred on the conundrums of those unlucky, or incapable, in love. Even his bet that Scarlett Johansson would turn out to be a modern Mia Farrow or Diane Keaton, which seemed laughable to anyone who saw his disastrous recent trio of London-set films, finally pays some sort of dividend.


In her fourth outing for the New Yorker, Johansson plays Cristina, a frustrated American short-film director who perpetually chooses exciting but ill-suited boyfriends. She is the film’s narrative voice, informing us that her best friend Vicky (Rebecca Hall), an academic with whom she has travelled to the Catalan City, is about to marry a financially stable bore. The girls are looking for some art, culture and sangria before they are forced to make serious decisions on careers and boyfriends.

Fears that Allen would trot out a series of clichés on Spain, as he did in England are borne out, as a Gaudi-heavy quick tourist guide to the city is delivered, in which dodgy hell-holes such as Las Ramblas are conveniently brushed-over.

But while the talk of Miro and Gaudi is tedious, Allen has his own masterstroke: the abstract artist Juan Antonio, portrayed by the excellent Javier Bardem. He has just gone through a rough divorce in which it is rumoured that his wife tried to kill him, or herself. In a scene better than anything Allen has created since 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway, the recently divorced artist approaches the girls in a restaurant and suggestively asks the pair to take his private jet to his country manor where he promises that there will be a lot of love-making. The bluntness of this delivery is an offer that the impulsive Cristina cannot refuse, while Vicky counsels caution before agreeing to tag along as a chaperone.

At the house, we are treated to Allen in his element as the cad Antonio tries his utmost to show both girls a good time, leading Vicky into a moral quandary. This is the Allen of Hannah and Her Sisters, toying with slightly neurotic characters and questioning their motives and emotional integrity with each line. Then Antonio’s ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) appears and the tangled triangle becomes a serendipitous square. The years spent being the muse of Pedro Almodovar have made the actress adept at playing unstable women. She is a real match for Bardem and watching the pair tango around each other is a frothy delight.

Cristina thinks it rather European to have three in a relationship and Allen revels in Johansson and Cruz sharing a passionate kiss. What sounds like an erotic male fantasy is in fact just another moment of harmless fun played for laughs. Indeed, the frivolous, punchy tone lacks sufficient emotional resonance to be anything more than a mid-level Allen work, but that still means it is much better than most romcoms.




To end, let me say that there is a competiton in thetimes where you can win a trip to Barcelona. The ticket for the bull ring makes me quite sad. Let me aso point out that in the review of The Times they say that Javier and Penelope spaek in Catalan. It is not true. No Catalan is heard in the whole film.