Vicky Cristina Barcelona

(USA, 2008, 96 mins, 35mm)
CAST Scarlett Johansson,Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall, Patricia Clarkson
Classification: 19+
Introduced by film scholar Michael van den Bos.


Two young American friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are spending the summer in Barcelona. Vicky has a fiancé back home. She’s all about getting down to work on her research. Cristina is quite different. She prefers to take life as it comes. She’s looking for a good time and hasn’t thought twice about tomorrow.

Enter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a famous Spanish artist who has been gracing the gossip pages after a painful separation from Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). He approaches the girls at a restaurant one night, flirts with them, and invites them to accompany him on a trip out of town for the weekend. What does he have in mind? Some good food and wine, some art, and, hopefully, sex, he says. Vicky is appalled, but there’s no way Cristina isn’t going – even when it turns out Juan Antonio means to fly them that very night in his own light aircraft.

If the characters start off as easily identifiable “types”the Latin lover; the crazy womanthey quickly take on more depth. Allen responds to Barcelona with the same romantic enthusiasm he once found in New Yorkit’s touristic, yes, but then so are Vicky and Cristina. Hall and Johansson are dominated by knockout performances from Bardem (softly softly) and Cruz (all guns blazing), but again, that makes sense: these characters are still young and unformed. At its best, the movie resembles one of Eric Rohmer’s sensual, sentimental educations, but with a more farcical, Almodovarian sense of humour.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona trips along winningly, carried by the beauty of its locations and stars - and all the gauzy romanticism those enchanted places and people imply."Manohla Dargis, New York Times

"The actors are attractive, the city is magnificent, the love scenes don’t get all sweaty, and everybody finishes the summer a little wiser and with a lifetime of memories. What more could you ask?"Roger Ebert