Amazon Prime Video film review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Ivan Radford | On 04, Feb 2015
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Scarlet Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz
Watch Vicky Cristina Barcelona online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
With Magic in the Moonlight and Scoop both released in the UK on VOD this month, we devote a week to looking back at Woody Allen’s career.
Allen’s European tour bus stops off in Spain. And with Catalonian culture throbbing through its pulse, Woody veers from his frequently beaten track into an invigorating tale of passion. Meet Vicky (Hall). She’s about to be wed to straight-laced Doug, happy in the secure environment of routine and order. Meet Cristina (Johansson). She swims in the turbulent waters of emotion. Often with other men. So when the two embark on a holiday to Barça and come across sexy artist Juan Antonio (Bardem), it’s no surprise which one takes the bait.
Succumbing to Juan Antonio’s charms, Cristina goes giddy at the thought of wine, food and an exotic painter. Vicky tags along, casting a wary eye over the couple’s (ahem) interactions. But as the juices flow, things go on, way under the duvet, that would make your granny gasp.
Amid all the groping, Allen has relatively little time for swift one-liners or neurotic babbling; Vicky Cristina is low on laughs and high on sex, but who needs wisecracks with relations like these? Carried along at a quick pace by its two well-matched ladies (a special heads-up for the excellent Hall), the ensemble improves even more when Marie Elena (Cruz) enters the room. She’s Juan Antonio’s ex-wife. And rather psychotic. With this heady Hispanic duo completing the quartet, Woody’s carnal comedy is soon full of steam. The steamy kind. It’s as if he dragged the entire crew to a sauna and watched them sweat for 90 minutes. They’re hot, they’re exciting, and their dials are all set to sizzle. Phwoar.
As everyone falls in and out of bed with each other, Woody grapples with the transient nature of love in all its forms. For someone whose direction is often rapid and unflashy, this is so fluidly shot that the camera seems to swoon over every detail (credit to Talk to Her’s DoP Javier Aguirresarobe). But it is all still filled with Allen’s existential musing, that haphazard flux of emotion. At its best, it recalls Hannah and Her Sisters – and there’s not much higher praise than that.
It lacks Hannah’s masterful, mature touch and Christopher Evan Welch’s narration is a tad too overt, but Vicky Cristina Barcelona never fails to let his leads fire on all pores. In time, like its seductive soundtrack, you’ll fall head over heels. In lust or love? Who cares?
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.