18 February 2009

Manila Times article: film review of VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

this is a film review that came out today at the manila times newspaper. read the online version here.

it has been ages since i wrote a film review, for a publication. i've been writing informal ones on my blogs but i really dig writing one for official purposes, like this publication. i used to have a film review column at the now defunct localvibe.com (late 90s-early 2000s) and i immensely enjoyed that gig. that continued with herword.com, an affiliate of businessworld newspaper sometime in early 2000s. yun na ata ang last.

and now, this. and in a newspaper again at that, hindi lang sa online. kakatuwa hehe :) when i was the entertainment editor of the now defunct pinoy times newspaper (early 2000s), i also made special columns to print my film reviews, na kinatuwa naman ng mga nag-iimbita sa akin for the press preview dahil i call them as i see them (in short, kung pangets, chugi and justify. kung ganderz, praise and justify). i was actually glad to discover that some in the entertainment press enjoy honesty like that.

sana mag-dire-diretso na ito if ever. this is the gig i don't mind na delayed ang tf hahaha! kasi i get to watch films on the big screen, in advance pati. at puwede pa ako magsama ng friend hehe :) winner!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


‘Living la vida loca,’ Woody Allen style

A review of Vicky Cristina Barcelona

By Libay Linsangan Cantor Contributor

Trust Woody Allen to fall in love with a city and cinematically immortalize its charm via the quirky citizens that inhabit or visit them.

Over the years, he has done that several times with his beloved New York, ranging from classics such as Manhattan, Annie Hall, and Bullets Over Broadway. And now, he does it for Spain, particularly Barcelona, and the quaint city of Oviedo in Asturias, with his latest opus Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

For avid Allen fans, you won’t be disappointed with this change in scenery, and locale. The usual elements of his films—the ones we’ve grown accustomed to, and love dearly—are all here: An uptight New Yorker (Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall) with a “bland” partner (her fiancé Doug, played by Chris Messina), a more laidback/free-spirited New York soul/artist (Cristina, played by Scarlett Johansson), and the sexually charged individual that stirs up a hornet’s nest of a situation (Juan Antonio, played by Javier Bardem, the dashing Spanish artist that befriends and beds the two girl friends), plus a neurotic-slash-quixotic character that is just there to “mess” things up some more, albeit philosophically, gracefully, artfully or just plain crazily (the lovely Penélope Cruz who plays passionate Maria Elena, the ex-wife and artist colleague of Juan Antonio).

With these character types alone, it’s easy to imagine how things begin and what happens next as the vacationing American girls meet the dapper Spaniard. Vicky is attracted to Juan Antonio and has a one night stand with him, before she gets married. After she gets married, Cristina ends up spending the rest of her summer living with Juan Antonio. Cristina has him all to herself, until he takes in Maria Elena to take care of her after her failed suicide attempt. The three share more than the house, so to speak. I’ll leave it up to you to discover what they discover for themselves. As with other Allen narratives, this one sets up the mood familiarly, guides you to a witty journey, and leads you to hang on to your seats for the exciting conclusion/s.

While the artists’ tempers and personal temperaments fly high, their interactions are not that harsh or hard to take in, thanks to the wonderful sceneries where Allen takes us. He shows us Catalan-born Antonio Gaudí’s breathtaking architectural genius in Barcelona, the main subject of study of Vicky (this New Yorker is doing her graduate thesis on Catalan identity—go figure!). He shows us the main streets and side streets full of fruits, flowers, goods, shops and everything you can imagine of romantic Barcelona as seen through the eyes of Cristina and her developing sensibilities as a photographer. We hear haunting melodies played on Spanish guitar as it teams up with the wine, the greenery and the balmy ambience of Oviedo to set up the sparkling sexual attraction—and its obvious copulating conclusion—between hot Juan Antonio and quirkily pretty Vicky.

With this film, it’s obvious that the neurotic New Yorker we have come to love in Allen has relaxed, taken a vacation, and fell in love with a place that made his wit sharper than ever. Sharp, but not scathing, and that is a fascinating change—a welcome one.

After seeing this film, you will have the urge to hop on a plane and fly to Barcelona, to see things for yourself, and hope to capture one of the storylines that Allen served in this wonderful film.

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