Elegy & Vicky Cristina Barcelona
One is dark, the other golden. One is rich and deep, its voice-overs more of an interior dialogue, while the other is a commentary, its voice-overs not so much reflective as descriptive and comedic. Both are worthy of some time. The one delightful, the other engaging. Isabel Coixet's Elegy is mildly humorous, but deeply reflective and erotic. Oddly enough, the eroticism of both film flows in a greater part from the characters played by Penelopé Cruz. It must be said as well, that Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley are equally seductive and convincing. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Javier Bardem has his sexy moments as well. Although both of these films explore the sexual, they approach it from different perspectives.
Woody Allen milks Barcelona for all of its beauty as the background for its youthful women and its art-laden circles that form the emotional backdrop for the story of two young American women in Barcelona. Will this be a study tour, as Vicky wants, or the adventure that Cristina desires? And we soon realize it is both, and neither. Patricia Clarkson plays well the older woman stuck in life, and quick to warn the young Vicky from making choices too soon. It is all a bit of a romp, but the questions are serious, and Woody Allen, in his on-going commentary (spoken by someone other than himself, but clearly in his persona) points out the development and dilemma of the characters. So we learn about them, not so much from what they say or do, but rather what is said about them.
In Elegy, we walk deep into Ben Kingsley's character, an art critic in New York. The circle is rich with intellectuals, art, photography, and music, but none of this is as rich as the character we soon learn to know. Dennis Hopper's poet, Patricia Clarkson's pragmatist, and Penelopé Cruz's ingenue all are developed as well, but with rich connections to Mr. Kingsley. I'm so grateful that he is doing quality work again - whatever made him appear in Species? And I am ashamed to admit that I never watched Sexy Beast. The conversations revolve around age, and sex. Wisdom and understanding are not the natural components of age, in this film - and we soon see that in the attitudes of Mr. Kinglsely's character. Wisdom and understanding are more the gift of Penelopé Cruz. At one point in the film she says, "Just because I am younger, does not make me the child."
I enjoyed both of these films immensely. Both were more than entertainment or distraction. Both poked into the psyche of their characters, and into the viewer's as well. Both are stunningly beautiful. The photography in Elegy is outstanding, while the "postcard" shots in Vicky... are charming. It is the people, however, who ultimately made me enjoy these films, and it was their uncertain end that made them convincing.
Now, I just need a new Almodóvar film
Archive of Previous ReviewsMTH 082208 Return to home page