Barcelona

Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by MikeKardec, Aug 21, 2017.

  1. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    A brief review or just a reminder of the 1994 Whit Stillman film Barcelona. This rather dead pan comedy follows a pair of ex-patriot cousins as they explore their past, fall in and out of love with local women and eventually discover a future where they can coexist without friction.

    Ted is an electric motor salesman working for an American company in Spain. Fred is a envoy for the US Navy who arrives in Barcelona to pave the way for a fleet visit in a country still getting over the Franco era and suspicious of the United states. Like Metropolitan, a earlier Stillman film, Barcelona reflects a time prior to the era in which it was shot without precisely nailing down the date. Fred semi imposes himself on his cousin. He is snarky and a bit of a con man while Ted is earnest in the extreme. Neither one is probably much of a catch but they are exotic foreigners to the Spanish and soon they have made inroads with a group of the attractive girls who work the Barcelona trade fair. The plot is very much "Boy Meets Girl ..." but is mixed up in many different supersizing and amusing ways. The real story behind the story is Fred and Ted and if they can reconcile the trifling yet poignant issues of their past.

    The interplay of characters and cultures is hysterical ... but in the subtlest of ways. The humor is played straight and dry but easily hits the heights of a good Woody Allen or Wes Anderson film. Stillman's other films are an acquired taste but this one, while remaining stylistically consistent, is a significant cut above; more accessible and the film is significantly better shot ... Barcelona is vastly more beautiful here than in say, Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona.

    Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman are flawlessly cast and at ease with Stillman's intentionally stilted dialog. This quirky word smithing was played for laughs in Metropolitan and it is here too but this is a more natural version, more honestly the character's voices than that of the screenwriter. Aussie/UK actress Tushka Bergen and American Mira Sorvino as well as then new comer Hellena Taylor show off their chops as convincing Spaniards and in delivering the goods when it comes to reacting to, or NOT reacting to, the quirky Americans. Kudos all around

    Anytime I'm feeling badly about the world (like recently) I watch this movie. It presents a universe where complete cultural misunderstanding yet total respect and acceptance is possible. Traditional comedy is about the sorting out of who belongs with whom and this is no exception. There are no heights of heroism but it truly is a story where love conquers all.
     
  2. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

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    Good appraisal. I still personally prefer Metropolitan over this one, but all of Whit Stillman's films are interesting.
     
  3. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I find myself nostalgic for some aspect of Metropolitan's NYC that I seem to have experienced when I worked there. I was never like those kids but I knew people like them. I enjoyed how the film gently poked fun at their lives and concerns. My era in NYC was the '80s and '90s which is around when the film was shot and it somehow captured a sense of late night conversations and the lighting you found in those apartments, none as upscale as they were pretending to be, and how, even in a crowded city you could often run into a person you knew. I enjoyed the film a lot even though it's nowhere near as polished, tight, well made (whatever you want to call it) as Barcelona. They are both a breath of fresh air, especially these days.

    Metropolitan also takes place just before the holidays. There are few places more magical than New York as Christmas approaches, that time of year displays the essence of the place. You can have it from January to October but the Fall and early Winter is something else.
     
  4. Angus Forbes

    Angus Forbes One of the Regulars

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    I have seen Barcelona two or three times. It's OK, in my opinion, but I'm one of those who likes Metropolitan better. I've also seen Last Days of Disco, but don't really remember much about it. Then I recall seeing a fourth Stillman -- something about girls, which title I can't recall. So my vote would go to Metropolitan -- I am absolutely delighted by Metropolitan, and have seen it maybe a dozen times.
     
  5. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    ⇧ I, too, was about the same age and living in NYC at the time of "Metropolitan." And while my life was different, I did know people in that world, went to some of their parties and saw those apartment and you are spot on, he captured the look and vibe very well. So, now, when I see that movie, it is a bit of time travel back to an earlier period in my life. For those who were young in NYC at that time, "Metropolitan, "Bright Lights, Big City," "Desperately Seeking Susan," "After Hours" and a few others can take us back to that time and place.
     
  6. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

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    The other Stillman films are Damsels In Distress and Love & Friendship. They have their moments, but I'm not crazy about either of them.

    I worked in NYC for most of the late 70s to mid 90s (commuting from the Bronx and Westchester), but I never came in contact with the "urban haute bourgeoisie". But it sure feels right. Stillman observes his little corner of the Upper East Side just as well as Woody Allen does his.
     
  7. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Stillman's UHBs were more in residence when I was in art school on the West coast, though they'd never admit their backgrounds. I never met them in NYC either but, working in publishing, the mid town area was where I spent a lot of time. There's a bit of that in Disco too, I can remember visiting those apartments with six girls, secretaries and junior editors, living in two bedrooms on numerous occasions. It seems to have changed, I don't know if wages have gone up or staffing has gone down, what is sure is I'm too old for that now.
     

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