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Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen's comedy explores the tangled desires of two young Americans and the locals they meet during one summer in Barcelona.

Woody Allen's latest comedy drama marks both a return to form, and a return to the themes of impulsive romance at which he excels, this time transposed to an appropriately seductive Barcelona. The heroines of Allen's Americans abroad story are Vicky (Rebecca Hall), an earnest graduate student who specialises in Catalan culture, and Cristina (Scarlett Johanssen), her dilettantish friend. Whilst spending the summer in Barcelona with Vicky's cousin (the wonderful Patricia Clarkson), they encounter a laid back Latin seducer, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a free-spirited artist who invites them to spend a weekend away with him. He and Cristina seem made for each other, but events take a surprising turn, causing complications for all concerned. These grow even more involved when Juan Antonio's tempestuous ex-wife Maria (Penélope Cruz) enters the picture.

The intricacies of romance and passion are played out against a backdrop of sun-drenched Barcelona landmarks, and renowned Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe makes the city and cast look equally alluring. Rebecca Hall, faultlessly playing American, is tremendous as the archetypal Allen lead, all hesitation and uptight uncertainty, and Scarlett Johanssen is a suitably more languid foil. Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz get to send themselves up as the sexy, volatile Spaniards, and do so with evident gusto and consummate ease. With Christopher Evan Welch's narration adding a sardonic top note, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is as diverting and entertaining as any summer romance should be. Sandra Hebron

Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson
Distributor: Optimum Releasing
Country: USA-Spain
Year: 2008
Running time: 96min

Added by Craig Grobler on September 11, 2008

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