Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Watched "Vicky Christina Barcelona"

... last weekend. It was interesting, as every Woody Allen movie I've watched has been.

We rushed into the hall a few minutes late. I have this unfortunate - or rather, fortunate in this case - habit of reading movie reviews and plots before I watch the movie (I suppose it's just an inability to stop myself from reading anything remotely interesting), so it wasn't difficult to catch on to what was happening.

I might let loose a couple of spoilers, so you're warned if you haven't seen the movie. This is not going to be a coherent review though, just a couple of thoughts I had.

It is undoubtedly the boldest movie I have ever seen on the big screen. I was in fact, surprised that there were so few people in the theater: I would have expected more, if only for the wrong reasons. The movie depicts a non-monogamous relationship, and posits it as not only normal, but desirable. And that is enough for me to love the movie, that it depicts relationships outside the monogamous heterosexual norm with sensitivity and naturalness, without a load of wink-wink, nudge-nudge. The only person in the movie who seems to find such relationships uncomfortable is treated as a bit of a caricature: a man who is too insensitive or dense to realise that his partner is in love with someone else; who insists upon a wedding in Barcelona because it would be fun to "tell the kids" about it, even though he and his partner would "of course" go back to New York and have the planned conventional wedding afterwards.

There was shocked laughter in the hall at any displays of non-straight, non-monogamous affection, and while I curled up my lip in disdain at the audience's uncool lack of liberalism at first, I soon recognised that this was remarkably tame for a country used to the likes of Dostana presenting the 'gay' angle.

I felt the film was slow and predictable, at least in the beginning, but I now think that was because I was waiting for something to 'happen'. Everything that happens seems predictable, but yet I think that's because the film set up the characters so well that their actions seem convincing and even inevitable.

I also found the narrating irritating: there is much of it, telling us, for instance, that certain characters are having dinner or eating chocolate when we can see the event unfold on the screen. But the narration was so over-the-top that I suspect it was put in to irritate: either as a spoof on the condescending narration that is present in so many movies nowadays, or to mislead the audience on the protagonists' characters by, for instance, reiterating how free-spirited Christina is.

As expected, I liked conservative Vicky much less than freespirited Christina; yet the director sets up a paradox. It is Christina who is straightforward about what she wants and what she does, and Vicky who ends up being deceitful and manipulative. Not an unlikely unfolding of events in real life, but Allen sets up the unfolding very well in the movie.

I think the acting was very good: Penelope Cruz definitely deserved her Oscar, and it says a lot for Chris Messina's talent that I wanted very much to punch him in the face.

Like most Woody Allen movies I have seen (barring the relatively recent ones Cassandra's Dream, Match Point and Scoop), I like the fact that nothing much 'happens' by the end of the movie. The characters remain much where they were at the beginning, all the adventures in the movie forming just a detour on their paths back to normal life. The film turns out to be more an exploration of their characters than the narration of their life-stories. Some critics wrote that Vicky Christina Barcelona is more like Allen's earlier movies than his recent ones: I agree.

In other words: go watch it, if you haven't already. If you have, what did you think of it?


Sukhaloka said...

I think this becomes a must-watch for me :)

Sig said...

As much as I liked both Vicky and Cristina, it was Penelope Cruz who took my breath away...

I fell in love with Penelope Cruz's character - she is everything that I want to be - creative, effortlessly gorgeous and just that little bit crazy....

An Oscar well deserved :)

Unmana said...

Suki: Do let me know how you like it.

Silvara: I loved the character, but I would NOT want to be her... I've been a little crazy in the past - though never as much as her - and I prefer not to kill someone over my lack of control.

Sumedha said...

I spent a looong time downloading this movie because I thought it sounds really interesting. Finally managed, sat down all happily to watch it, but I didn't end up liking it much. In fact, I didn't even finish it. I haven't seen any other Woody Allen movies (other than Scoop), so I didn't really know what to expect.

I think I will go back and finish it now though. Sounds interesting from what you say. :)

Unmana said...

Sumedha: "Scoop" was probably the worst Woody Allen movie I've watched. I loved "Annie Hall" and "Mighty Aphrodite": I mean to look out for more of his older works.

apu said...

Unmana, this was on TV yesterday, so I watched it (although in bits and pieces) - found it interesting, though not anything wow - I thought the narration was meant to be a bit cheeky/ spoofy. I couldn't decide if the depiction of non-monogamous relationships was meant to be taken at face value or a bit laced with humour at the expense of "liberal Americans who want to be European"...

ps - your blog doesn't allow name/ URL comments for those of us who use our own domains?

Unmana said...

Apu: Sorry for the very belated reply. I read your comment, and thought I'd come back later to reply... and forgot. Sorry.

I think the movie did mean to make fun of 'liberal' Americans, and as you see the most 'liberal' - if 'liberal' equals accepting alternative relationships - people in the movie are Spanish. Nothing very 'wow', no, just interesting and entertaining, I felt.

And do you know how I can enable URLs on comments?