In poking around my blog’s archives, I found a post from 2009 documenting some tapas Michael and I made with our dear friend L to go along with a viewing of Vicky Cristina Barcelona later that evening. I cringe when I look at it now: awful photos and rather inane (and inaccurate!) commentary dominate it, and I barely wrote about the movie itself. I remember having a plan to go see it in the theater and then going to Barcelona Wine Bar when it came out, but weddings (including our own) and unexpected unemployment kind of put the brakes on that plan. Eventually I got the DVD, and then downloaded the soundtrack…and somewhere between seemingly endless drives around New Haven while listening to the soundtrack and a few more rewatches when we moved to New York, I came to the realization that I couldn’t quite quit this movie despite identifying several irritating quirks as well as having a general unease in enjoying anything Woody Allen makes.
The main issue I have with it is despite one of the titular characters pursuing a Master’s in “Catalan identify,” no one ever mentions the Catalan language. On one hand, I kind of get it because neither of the two main Spanish stars are from the region, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t speak it; on the other, though, I wish Allen hadn’t made it a point to send Vicky to Spanish lessons and still insist that her degree was based around Catalan identity. Whether you’re in Barcelona proper or in the towns outside of it Catalan is everywhere and therefore seems to be a pretty big part of the identity of the region, especially considering how they weren’t allowed to use or speak it in public or even learn it in schools during Franco’s dictatorship. It’s made somewhat clear that neither Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) nor Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) are from the region, but if they wanted to focus on showing off the gorgeous Gaudí architecture it would have made much more sense for her to be writing a thesis solely on that topic rather than a topic that is constantly contradicted throughout the movie.
The city is beautifully, lovingly filmed in spite of all of this, and I think that’s what makes it so endearing even to this day: when To Rome With Love was on the verge of release in Spain when we were in Barcelona in 2012, the enthusiasm for it seemed to be rooted more in a desire to show clips from VCB during entertainment news segments rather than promote the new movie. I was curious if the same thing would happen with his latest film, but it’s not expected to premiere in Spain until December so I doubt we’ll see anything.
But I digress.
One of the other things that bugs me when I rewatch this movie now, though, is that we didn’t get to see enough of the city when we were there two years ago. For as much as we wandered around it and covered some serious ground, we still missed places like the Arc de Triomf and the Parc de la Ciutadella, not to mention restaurant icons like Els 4Gats. I’ve taken it upon myself to remedy this by building a reasonable walking tour of various filming locations peppered with restaurant stops where needed for Sunday when most food stores are closed by law and we’re going to need something to do since La Boqueria is closed off to us. It will be especially interesting to wander around the city given that we’re arriving there on Thursday, which is not only Diada de Catalunya but the tricentennial of the Catalans’ fall to Phillip V in the war of Spanish Succession. From what I’ve been told so far it’s a peaceful and fiercely patriotic day throughout the region, so I’m really excited to witness it for myself and get some actual insight into the Catalan identity.
It’ll be a welcome distraction from recent events, as both M and I are simply excited at the prospect of leaving the States for a short while. We are in a period of great stress and transition, and it’s definitely time to close our eyes for a second and focus on the things that matter.
This will be the last post in some time (not that it’s mattered that much given how sporadically I do post), but I’m looking forward to not only celebrating the end of summer with you all, but also some new insights and recipes I hope to gain from this little vacation.