A little bit of VCB

Director Woody Allen is in fine form for his 39th film

Throughout his 39 feature-length films Woody Allen has served up wide-ranging discussions of love lust and relationships with their various effects on life as philosophical food for thought. As far as the 72-year-old’s post-millennial menu goes Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a veritable buffet.

The basic synopsis of this story is simple: Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are on vacation in the film’s titular city and both end up falling for Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) an unconventional and frankly sexual artist. However when his fiery ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) suddenly and unexpectedly barges her way back into the picture well…

Revealing the plot details here would be unnecessary unsatisfying and worst of all a spoiler although despite how seamlessly events unfold the plot of this film is quite clearly beside the point. The real focus here is how the two main characters represent opposing outlooks on romance. Vicky’s priority is security even if it means ending up with someone who only shares superficial interests. Cristina conversely has accepted the prospect of heartbreak if it comes part and parcel with passion and is only attracted to partners who are more than “corporate zombie clones.” Both feel a burgeoning need to express themselves creatively and emotionally and set that desire ablaze after meeting the Latin lovers.

In a move that will likely have some critics crying foul old Hollywood Liberal Allen seems to paint the film’s left leaning characters as far more complex and interesting than their conservative counterparts. This isn’t exactly a fair complaint though as everyone in the film is equally confused unhappy and unfulfilled — none of the film’s lifestyles are particularly appealing. Vicky battles between her heart and her guilt complex Cristina is never content and both Juan Antonio and Maria Elena come complete with a set of neuroses offering up the opposing sexual sides of the perpetually self-centred writer-director.

The only major gripe that can be aimed at Vicky Cristina Barcelona is that the dialogue is nowhere near as clever quotable or memorable as in the glory days of Allen’s filmography. Overlooking that shortcoming it is without a doubt one of the richest and most rewarding entries Allen has offered in years.