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Vicky Cristina Barcelona(2008)
Two young women from the US, Vicky and Cristina, come to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Vicky is sensible and engaged to be married; Cristina is emotionally and sexually adventurous. In Barcelona, they're drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements with Juan Antonio, a charismatic painter, who is still involved with his tempestuous ex-wife María Elena.
For more about Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray release, see Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn
» See full cast & crew
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray Review
Woody's European adventures continue.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, February 11, 2009
Does Woody Allen ever sleep? Now in his early seventies, Mr. Allen continues crank out a couple of movies each year; making his writing and directing and, occasionally, acting duties look easy. Perhaps for Mr. Allen, now in production on his 44th film, it all truly is easy. Mr. Allen's prolific abilities haven't shielded him from criticism over the years; only a few years ago, following a series of poorly received films, many critics considered him to be past his prime. In a surprising turn that seemed planned to answer those critics, Mr. Allen left the confines of New York City and made his first film outside of the thriving metropolis that has served as a veritable character in all of his proceeding films. Filmed in London and as far removed from the "Woody-verse" as could be imagined, Match Point signaled that this once great writer / director was back on his game. Several films have followed, none achieving the heights of his crucial comeback. That is, until 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona; an Oscar nominated film that proves, once and for all, that Woody Allen still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), two friends looking for a summer distraction, decide to spend their time vacationing in historic Spain. The two friends couldn't be more different; Vicky is engaged, committed and practical, while Cristina is more of a free spirit; unsure of her goals, needs or wants. While soaking up Barcelona's ambience and imbibing on the local art scene, the two vacationing friends encounter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter with a traumatic romantic history. Juan's story is one of love, commitment and violence; his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), though often caring and passionate, dominated their married life with physical and emotional pain. It's these experiences with Maria Elena that define Juan Antonio's existence and influence his every day life. Vicky and Cristina each are each instantly fascinated buy this unique man, though both deny their obvious attraction to him. As the summer wears on, Vicky and Cristina will each have their own opportunities to indulge in his affections and, in the process, will discover the experiences and ideals that they each crave.
Much has been written about Woody Allen's habit of finding young, talented actresses and using them as muses for his writing and directing endeavors. Over the past 40 years, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow occupied this role in countless Allen films; now, Scarlett Johansson has taken up as Mr. Allen's go-to actress and muse. She's an inspired pick and has clearly motivated the legendary filmmaker to move his storytelling in new directions. Ms. Johansson effortlessly inhabits the role of Cristina; a role specifically created for her. She perfectly embodies the carefree yet confused attitude of a woman perfectly in tune with her most basic desires while remaining blissfully blind to others' perceptions.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona follows the title characters as they wander through Spain and ponder their lives. It's a leisurely-paced film that allows the characters ample time to develop while focusing on the complex intricacies of sexual relationships and the confusion these relationships eventually encounter. Juan Antonio acts as the film's catalyst in spurring Vicky and Cristina into new experiences, awkward affairs and moments of decisive revelation. Both women have differing experiences and arrive at different places in their lives by the end of the film. I couldn't even begin to tell you how grounded in reality these two women are, but Mr. Allen's special brand of clever dialogue and efficient storytelling is immensely effective in shrouding the sometimes bizarre events of the film in a strangely believable veil.
I think it is safe to say that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is going to be a hit or miss film for many viewers. Mr. Allen's films have always appealed to a select audience and this particular story does little to break him of that limitation. Perhaps, in the end, the popularity of the many fine actors present in the film will help it to find a larger audience. I found Vicky Cristina Barcelona to be a fascinating story; one that is almost completely devoid of traditional cliches. Don't expect easy answers from the movie; Vicky Cristina Barcelona will make you work a little harder than usual to find the film's meaning. Recommended.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray, Video Quality
Woody Allen and Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe have lovingly graced Vicky Cristina Barcelona with a sumptuous natural veneer that bathes the film in a warm golden aura. It's a deliberately lush style that gives the movie an aged appearance while highlighting the beauty of the Spanish landscape. Interior and exterior scenes alike, share this unique visual approach. The Weinstein Company has translated this material to 1080p Blu-ray by utilizing VC-1 and maintaining the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Technically, this is a stunningly beautiful transfer. Colors are well defined and heavily saturated while contrast remains stable and robust. Intricate details are expertly rendered and never show the tell tale signs of edge sharpening. As far as problematic digital artifacts are concerned, viewers can rest assured that none creep into this exceptional transfer. While some may find that the film's visual style conflicts with their personal tastes, most would be hard pressed to find fault of any kind with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Highly recommended.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray, Audio Quality
In spite of notations to the contrary on the film's cover, Vicky Cristina Barcelona actually includes an uncompressed PCM 3 channel soundtrack. I'm not sure where the confusion was when packaging was approved, but I tested the disc on a number of different systems and found the same results each time. Like the track's true specs would indicate, this is a very basic mix that emphasizes dialogue and the occasional musical interlude. In fact, for all intents and purposes, there's not much more to this track than monaural material that rarely utilizes anything other than the center channel speaker - - for dialogue and music. It's all well presented and maintains excellent clarity, but beyond that, there's really not much to crow about with this release. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is decidedly average in the audio department.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No special features were included with Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Woody Allen's 43rd film continues the fabled writer / director's fascination with human relationships and misunderstanding. In his third trip across the pond, away from his normal New York City settings, Mr. Allen continues to create quirky material that features a small dose of introspection and a sly wit. Many will argue against the merits of Vicky Cristina Barcelona in the wake of his classic films, but few would deny Mr. Allen's continued prolific filmmaking abilities, in spite of being in his seventies. The Weinstein Company has gifted Vicky Cristina Barcelona with an impressive video transfer that highlights the film's lush photography. Audio is pleasant enough, despite the strange three-channel presentation. Even with a complete lack of supplements, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is easily recommended.
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