30 December 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

(Spoiler alert)

One good thing about taking a film appreciation course is the license it gives you to watch movies all the time. The movie was interesting, to say the least. Kept me hooked and guessing. I enjoyed the music, the acting was brilliant (Cruz's Oscar was certainly well-deserved) and the cinematography and narrative style were pretty cool too. I think this was only my second Woody Allen film, the first being Match Point, which I quite detested. I don't understand why people liked it so much, if IMDb rankings be any standard. I mean, the story was hardly unique and I was painfully bored most of the time. Plus it was a case of trying to fit in too much into too little time. The characters were were shallow at best, having no room to grow or develop - the story progressed too fast for that - and seemed to have no feeling at all. Good or evil, any kind; their actions seemed mechanical, calculating and cold throughout.

Anyway, I digress. Wrong movie.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, on the other hand, was a totally different experience for me. I know people who've hated it, and some argue that the alternative and unconventional relationships and setups that the movie tries to advocate are, in fact, undercut with the ending which places both Vicky and Cristina back into convention. But I beg to differ. First of all, the story is complex - the whole scenario would be difficult to untangle even if best friends, ex-wives and husbands weren't involved. The ending was quite a surprise, but looking back, it was the only solution that made sense. What I think the movie tried to parody was the whole cliched idea that many movies adopt as their tagline: one summer that changes life forever etc etc. This one showed that one summer is, well, exactly that - just one summer. After which you move on with your life. Vicky and Cristina both, in a way, go back to the lives they would have led had they not gone to Barcelona - Vicky with the marriage she had always planned, and Cristina still searching, only knowing what she didn't want. It is here that many people seem to feel let down by the ending.

However, I choose to see the summer and the end of it in a slightly different way. Both girls did have experiences that they take away. Vicky experienced spontaneity, desire, attraction that wasn't planned, though she didn't really know what to do with it. Besides, even if she had 'acted', she would have regretted it since she's really not the kind of person who'd be comfortable in a relationship as stormy as the one with Juan Antonio (and Maria Elena, who, let's face it, would not really let go easily.) So the only thing for her is to get out of it, and she realizes this with the surety and force of a gunshot.

Cristina, on the other hand, ever the open-minded, experimental one, is able to live with both Juan Antonio and Maria Elena rather happily for a while. However, society and convention never give up easily and she is haunted by reasons to leave. She has found her calling, her means of expression in photography, and this sustains her. That's what she had really lacked.

So Vicky is admittedly going back to a relationship that won't satisfy her, and Cristina is still searching. Searching doesn't have to be a negative thing. Maybe one day, Vicky will get the courage to get out of her monotonous relationship, and Cristina will find love. But it's really not the movie's purpose to explore that. It talks about the present, not ever-afters. And it enforces in its tagline that life is the ultimate work of art - that you can't predict or explain.

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