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Movie Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008/English) 105

Though having been a movie buff for a long time, I hadn’t watched much of Woody Allen’s movies till recently when “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” was telecast on Zee Studio that opened my eyes to this gem of a movie and the great man behind it. It went without saying that I followed this up watching “Match Point”, “Scoop” and “Hollywood Ending”. The sheer beauty of storytelling without the frills runs through them all.

In this movie, he dissects relationships and lays bare the feelings, physical, emotional and circumstantial that affects romance. The trick is to watch it without making value judgments. Love could blossom in the most unpredictable situations and between unlikely partners. And, in the end, it could all be just so transient!

Set in a summer at Barcelona, the story traces the two months spent by two friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). While Vicky is interested in Catalan culture in which she was doing her masters, Cristina looked for a change of scenery after giving up on a short film and breaking up with a boyfriend. Despite similar views on most issues, the duo had absolutely divergent views on love!

The girls bump into an artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) at an art gallery. Later at dinner he propositions them for a weekend of fun at Oviedo. Shot to precision, this is my favorite scene. As the offer is made, the two girls react differently. While Cristina finds Juan Antonio interesting, Vicky detests the idea of following him to Oviedo. But, strange as things turn out, Vicky and Juan Antonio make love eventually.

Vicky is drawn to the artist who still loves his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz, Oscar winner for a Supporting role) who believes that only unfulfilled love can be romantic and had stabbed Juan Antonio. As the days pass, Cristina and Juan Antonio’s are in love and start living together. Vicky then gets married to Doug, her betrothed but her life has changed forever after what she’d experienced in Oviedo.

Maria Elena re-enters the scene. Though having gone green over Juan Antonio initially, Cristina and Maria Elena start their own romance with Antonio joining in later. They discover that Cristina was the missing ingredient in their romance. Though the going is good, Cristina is soon over with Juan Antonio and Maria Elena and falls out. Vicky then tries to take Cristina’s place and ends up getting shot.

In the end, the girls Vicky and Cristina leave Spain, Vicky back to Doug and Cristina back to nowhere ad the artist couple break up. All are back where they started. And you are left wiser to world cinema. Well, if you wondered why Barcelona? The city offered to support the budget if it were short there. Hence, Woody Allen’s original draft for San Francisco was changed to fit Barcelona. The result is a masterpiece.

The story, screenplay and performances are amazing. The Oscar wins and nominations say enough already. It’s a testimony to the superiority of art over high budgets. If you are in a mood for some classy cinema, I recommend this for your DVD collection.

Rating 8/10: Wins you over with its narrative; a must watch!
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