Stories With Men and Women

Because my ego is too well-developed, I had just finished taking all my cards off the table when Adam called. My phone told me it was David.

— David is boring me. Let’s go to a movie.
— Fine. I think I need one right now.

Adam pulled up in David’s car. “Where is David?” I asked. “Reading! Being boring.” I couldn’t remember the name of the movie we had picked out of a hat when buying the tickets. The board above had it abbreviated as ‘Vicky Chris.” When I got to the front of the concessions stand, the cashier bitchily said, “Yes?” I replied “Yes!” back, and we shared a nice several second power stare-down during which I stared at her as she stared somewhere above my right ear. Adam smacked me and whispered “she makes four dollars an hour, lay off.” Already I was emotionally distraught. I felt this confrontation was a portent; coupled to the fact that I couldn’t remember what we were even seeing, I expected to hate the movie. I ordered my cherry coke and we made our way to the auditorium where I saw the full name of the movie was Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.

All I knew was that it was a Woody Allen movie. During the first several awkward seconds of narration, we were filled in. Vicky adheres to a serial monogamist’s viewpoint that commitment has an intrinsic beauty, whereas Christina clearly reads too much Anaïs Nin, dividing her love-objects into plural sites of dissatisfaction. Christina doesn’t know what exactly she’s looking for, but she knows she is looking for something more. I haven’t much appreciated Allen since he began raiding Young Hollywood for his cast. As mentioned before, I’m most a fan of his serious Bergman period, Interiors, September. Melinda & Melinda did turn out to be a passable experiment showing different ways of how the same story could be told switching off from comedy and tragedy. Scoop was a parody of Allen’s over-serious Matchpoint (which, in turn, was a sexy version of American Tragedy or the film adaptation, A Place in the Sun, — a quick check of wickipedia reveals that this is not an original observation, damnit — with Jonathan Rhys Myers showing off what Cintra Wilson refers to his gorgeous layer of ‘sub-cutaneous baby fat’.). The battle of tragedy and comedy gets a new spin in Vicky Christina Barcelona, as Vicky and Christina are simultaneously solicited by the same man, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem).

It is easy to think that this is another Woody Allen attack on neurotic women, but it seemed clear to me that a lot of the parody was directed at the pretensions of privatized sexuality in general, as well as the pressure valve release of bourgeois affairs (which my favorite person ever — that hair flipper, Laura Kipnis –, thinks are Just So Kewl!). For every “No means Yes” implied in the film, Allen twists with his own typical “Yes means No” — which is the element that many people tend to hone in on as Allen’s innate misogyny (read: women are fickle bitches). Woody Allen doesn’t have enough of an emotional range to be truly offensive. His subject matter is reduced and contained enough to be pretty innocuous. By now he’s right enough about the elements of intimacy that he’s been dissecting for the past 73 years or so. His contempt for each character’s verbalization of their own sexuality is hilarious. It makes some of the terrible actresses he chooses — Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson — palatable. My favorite scene is when one of the characters is in the middle of telling a joke, and, bored with him, the film’s sound cuts out to mute the douche-bag.

I’ve seen some well-done movies this summer, such as The Dark Knight, but I haven’t really enjoyed any since this one. It was also a nice change of pace to be able to see a movie without suffering diverse concussions in the queue outside. Also, Vicky Christina Barcelona is the sexiest title ever. It’s a classed up version of a 70s porn title, just with the verbiage and adverbs removed. Later, I asked Adam why David didn’t come. He had trouble putting it into words.

— He likes action movies… I just don’t think he likes stories about men and women.

I get this. I really do. It is difficult to take the representation of lunatics like Batman or the Joker (or the idiot from the Die Hard movies) personally, whereas several times I felt skewered by Allen when one of his characters would voice the kind of self-important thought that I might at puff up with at certain points. Watching this film, I could feel my mature ego unravel. What is likable about Allen is that after he humiliates the viewer, grinding our obviousness into the dirt, his overt decadence lifts us up. That’s true entertainment. The blatant lesbian fetishism of Vicky and Maria Helena (Cruz) screwing in the dark room after Maria Helena has declared, “I have thought of killing you many times,” was such a joyous celebration of Allen’s basest instincts that it becomes impossible to judge the shameless old pervert. And by extension, the viewer ceases judging himself.

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