Woody Allen film combines comedy with tragedy

“Barcelona, my mind is full of foreign people faces …, I don’t exist any more, Barcelona; … being your sounds wife, your extroverted labyrinth” tells us the song that accompanies the characters along the latest Woody Allen film, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Narrated by Christopher Evan Welch, this rueful comedy is one of the best films of the year as it ingeniously combines art, passion, romance and madness in an exotic ambience.

“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” is the story of two friends who travel to Barcelona for the summer. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) have similar ways of thinking but very different ways of feeling: Vicky is practical, committed and serious; a girl who knows what she wants while Cristina is the opposite, dreamy, passionate, adventurous and only sure of what she doesn’t want in life.

During their trip, they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a famous painter with a tempestuous past relationship with Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), his former wife who apparently tried to kill him. Having noticed the interest of Cristina for him, Juan Antonio invites the two friends to Oviedo, his hometown to, among other things, drink good wine and make love. It is in this short trip that Vicky’s and Cristina’s feelings and perspectives of life start an interesting metamorphosis.

Although these changes are adequately expressed by Scarlett Johansson’s performance, it is Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz who definitely seduce the audience. On the one hand, Bardem’s Juan Antonio involves the viewers with his strategic and charismatic way of seduction, which is deeply related to the way he embraces his art. Cruz’s Maria Elena, on the other hand, is the perfect combination of both vulnerability and aggressiveness, a wonderful artist with a permanent sense of autodestruction that reaches its zenith when she tries to kill herself. These two characters, condemned to neither live together nor apart, find briefly in this story their third connection, which makes them reach an ephemeral harmony.

Finally, the unnamed but omnipresent lover: the impressive city of Barcelona, showing herself sometimes sophisticated and artistic as through Gaudí’s works of art and sometimes profligate and shameless as through her prostitutes. Barcelona, the perfect lover, makes the public fall in love with both of her extremes with fascination and fidelity. After London (Match Point, Scoop), Barcelona is the perfect choice in this new stage of Allen’s filmography that looks for new sceneries for tragedy and comedy. The ultimate outcome of this stage, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” promises the satisfaction that only a Woody Allen film can provide. This film counts also with the participation of Judy Nash, Kevin Dunn and Chris Messina.