It must be true that getting out of town can do a fellow a lot of good, becauseVicky Cristina Barcelona
is the best movie Woody Allen has made in years. Okay, you're right, 2006'sMatch Point
already claimed that honor and, as Allen's first film made in England, established the virtues of getting away from overfamiliar territory (namely Manhattan). But the Woodman's first film made in Spain matches the ice-coldMatch Point
for crisp authority, and yields a good deal more sheer pleasure besides. Rebecca Hall (Vicky) and Scarlett Johansson (Cristina) play two young Americans, best friends, spending a summer in Catalonia. Vicky is going for a master's in "Catalan identity" (though her Spanish is shaky); Cristina is going along for, oh, just about anything. That soon includes celebrated abstract artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who's anything but abstract in his forthright proposition that the two join him in his private plane, his travels, and his bed. That he has an insane ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), who may or may not have tried to kill him is not really an issue until the wife reappears and ... well, consider the possibilities.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona isn't exactly a comedy, at least not in the manner of Allen's "early, funny ones," but it's informed by a rueful wit that finds its fullest expression in reflective voiceover commentary. Spoken by Christopher Evan Welch, but surely on behalf of the 73-year-old auteur, this element of the film is neither (as some ...