Vicky Cristina Barcelona





Woody Allen has long outlived his 1970s-80s heyday: outlived it too long, sadly, ever to recover his elusive comedy mojo, which depended on being jazzily in tune with the times. But his residual flair and extraordinary productivity mean he is more than capable of making a perfectly watchable little movie once in a while - and this is one: slight, disposable but entertaining. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is an awful lot better than anything in his thankfully short "British" period. It's got just one really big laugh, right at the end, concerning a bullet wound. That's one big laugh, however, more than most new comedies.

The title refers to its three characters: Vicky is an earnest, cerebral young woman played by Britain's Rebecca Hall with the pitch-perfect American accent that the new generation of Brit professionals has mastered. She is working on her "Master's degree in Catalan culture" and, leaving a well-off fiance behind in New York, is spending the summer in Spain with her friend, the rumpled and sexually adventurous blonde Cristina, played by Scarlett Johansson. The third character is the city of Barcelona itself, whose architecture and cuisine are sunnily photographed as if for some tourist promotion. But all three are effortlessly upstaged by Penélope Cruz, playing Maria Elena, the passionate and crazy ex-wife of a moody Picasso-ish artist called Juan Antonio Gonzalo (Javier Bardem). He seduces both the Americans, and even engineers some PG-certificate girl-on-girl action between Cristina and Maria Elena herself.

With all Woody Allen films that don't feature the Master himself in an acting role, the first question has to be: who is playing Woody? The answer here, oddly, is Rebecca Hall, in whom the mannerisms and tics are diluted but recognisable. Elsewhere, other Allen trademarks are visible. There are serendipitous encounters in the street. There are liberal sympathetic characters who are nonetheless rich and patrician enough for servants to be glimpsed serving lunch. Allen decides that Cristina's artistic bent, like Annie Hall's so long ago, should be for photography, and tellingly makes her forgo digital cameras in favour of old-fashioned film. And Vicky and Cristina speak in that distinctive indulgent conversational babble, sweetly poised by Allen on the laugh-at/laugh-with borderline.

But Cruz, and to a lesser extent Bardem, utterly blow the Americans away. Cruz looks as if she has wandered in from a more hefty film entirely; everything she does and says seems to mean more, count for more. This isn't to say that she gets bigger laughs, or perhaps any laughs, but she certainly walks off with the film. Both the Spanish players have an easy presence and forthright energy, in comparison with which Hall and Johansson are slightly subdued and off the beat. All perfectly enjoyable. What's not to quite like?

babble - bełkot; paplanina

capable of - zdolny do

cerebral - intelektualny

diluted - rozcieńczony

disposable - jednorazowy

distinctive - charakterystyczny

effortlessly - bez wysiłku

elusive - nieuchwytny, ulotny

flair - talent, smykałka

forgo - odmawiać sobie (czegoś)

forthright - prostolinijny

hefty - duży, ważny, mający dużą wagę

heyday - okres rozkwitu

in tune with - zgodnie z

indulgent - pobłażliwy

jazzily - na jazzowo; w wystrzałowy sposób

mojo - magia, magiczne zaklęcie

outlive - przeżyć, żyć dłużej niż

patrician - patrycjuszowski, arystokratyczny

poised - zrównoważony, przygotowany

residual - pozostały, szczątkowy

rumpled - nieporządny, niezorganizowany

serendipitous - mający talent do przypadkowych odkryć; przypadkowy

slight - niewielki; powierzchowny

subdue - podporządkowywać, podbijać

upstage - przyćmiewać; zwracać na siebie uwagę

walk off with - łatwo coś zdobywać

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