Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Later Woody Allen

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of those Woody Allen movies that reminds you that the man does not know who he is or who he wants to be. The whole movie has a derivative feel – derivative of Allen’s earlier movies. Even the art used in Vicky Cristina Barcelona by Agustí Puig seemed derivative of Antoni Tàpies – although the artist says his greatest influence is Picasso? Maybe Picasso by way of the Abstract Expressionists. Allen’s trademark wit, which seemed to bubble out of his early movies, has been replaced by affectation; this from a movie maker who was so satisfyingly cutting in his treatment of artificiality.

From Vicky Cristina Barcelona you get the idea Allen wants to be a European, making sophisticated Jean Renoir sex romps, but to which, jarringly, Allen includes an awful lot of My Dinner With Andre cocktail party self-analysis; thence resolving to a false melancholic ending, hoping to evoke in the audience, “yeah, that’s life – it sorta sucks”. The movies Allen has made recently in this vein are actually sad, but not in the way Allen intends.

The settings in Spain are all gorgeous. The movie is like a Spanish travelogue advertisement. Setting makes a big difference, and this backdrop aids the movie enormously. It was one of Allen’s most financially successful movies. Despite the criticisms, I watched the whole thing, and, given the alternatives, it was a pleasant if disappointing excursion.

The cast was very good, Allen’s directorial skills have sharpened; the individual lines, as might be expected, are often well wrought, but it doesn’t add up. Not surprisingly, the movie won tons of awards.