The most recent film I saw, and gladly paid my own money to see was Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona I had been looking forward to seeing it for a long time, and my friend Naomi suggested we go to the Angelika Theater, although the east village location would have been ideal, considering the rain. Having missed the 8 oclock showing (the six train was running slow) we bought the tickets for later and passed the time with coffee and a drink before the 9:10 screening.
The film began with a very poignant Luis Vuitton advertisement before launching into a series of trailers for environmentalist documentaries, and one for ‘The Women’ a film which I am sure may be prove the nail in the coffin for feminist film. About every other minute during the trailers a different person, having separated from their couple, would come up and ask if the seats next us were taken, which sadly they were. The variegated but always disgruntled responses of those feeling around for seats primed us to for laughter before the film even started.
Manohla Dargis said it best in her review for the Times that “There will always be an audience that hungers for a certain kind of Woody Allen movie, but it’s a relief that he has moved away from the safety and provincialism of his New York.” This is both true and false. I think people were relieved that he was making jokes again, and not shooting Ms. Johansson with a sawed off shot gun in a stairwell. Although Ms. Dargis is a personal favorite I am not sure that New York is, in fact, Mr. Allen’s vision of provincialism. New York is instead his stomping ground, perhaps what many may call his muse. Sadly, I too am one who misses the New York Allen and craves a refreshment from the genre of urban neurosis.
Interesting though to see Mr. Allen’s new film as a foreign director trying his best to submerge himself in another culture, standing in paradoxical alignment to the plot of the film. It was great; however, because it returned to a lighter, albeit complex, humor reminiscent of his “New York” films, something many fans I feel, have been missing.
There were moments inside the packed and wet theater where everyone was really laughing. There were times when people would laugh preemptively or laugh very boisterously. At first, I was put off by all of these different types of laughter but I realized that maybe people were just excited to see Mr. Allen cracking a joke again, and that maybe i should loosen the fuck up. Often the jokes came at the expense of Ms. Johansson , the poet and the lover. In contrast with the stiff yet quirky Cristina, who comes to terms with her own sexuality in a much different way.
And yet, the tired joke of innocence abroad is often another, more sensual way of harping on a crypto machismo. There was something about the fact that it was a Woody Allen film, or perhaps that there was narration which guided us but there was something quiet that felt as though the film could indulge in itself, Allen could indulge in himself, but we could not. Had this been say, a James Bond movie, regarding the various relationships, the sexuality would have been gratuitous at best. But here, the sexuality is modern, bohemian, dare I say chic.
I had read a diary with the Times called “Excerpts from the Spanish Diary” Mr.Allen wrote from the set of Vicky Cristina parodying the beautiful cast he was working with, something which served to prime me for the film.
Once again I had to help Javier with the lovemaking scenes. The sequence requires him to grab Penélope Cruz, tear off her clothes and ravish her in the bedroom. Oscar winner that he is, the man still needs me to show him how to play passion. I grabbed Penélope and with one motion tore her clothes off.”. (Woody Allen, NYT,8/20/2008)
Perhaps, this movie helped Mr. Allen reclaim that certain dark levity his ouvre, and his fans had been missing.