Movies »Barcelona

barcelona movieI love Whit Stillman's other two movies, Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, but only recently did I finally see his most political work, Barcelona. In many ways it's utterly perplexing that Stillman's filmography is so very brief; he was nominated for an Academy Award for the Metropolitan screenplay (Ghost won) and touted, not without good reason, as a Woody Allen of a new generation. At the same time, his work is certainly an acquired taste; the dialogue is always cerebral, frequently becoming rigorously intellectual, and there's something odd about his style of direction, it's almost stilted (no pun intended) and play-like, but somehow the scenes still manage to feel very realistic.

In fact, after watching any of his three films, I end up loving him even more thinking abut just how unwatchable they should be. Despite his use of all the talky, early 90's independent film tropes, these are incredibly smart, very funny, and totally unique entries in the romantic comedy pantheon and I love re-watching them. After ten years of silence, I do hope he starts making new movies soon.

Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols (who played Nick and Charlie in Metropolitan) portray Fred and Ted Boynton, cousins who find themselves living together in Barcelona. They wax lyrical about theories of beauty and business, relive their childhood differences, discuss politics, and meet a bevy of exotic Spanish women including Mira Sorvino and Tushka Bergen. All the signature Stillman wit is here, beyond the casting, and the film compares very well to Metropolitan.

Instead of college freshmen, these are older characters set, to some degree, on their own paths in life, only to find themselves still lonely and longing. It's a love story at its heart, not only between women and men but the familial love between two very different “only” cousins.

No longer UHBs in NYC, Ted and Fred are alienated and frequently reviled foreigners in a country that, at the very least, doesn't understand them and, at the most extreme, wants them dead. Set in the early 1980's, it's a fantastic document of the anti-American sentiment that existed at in western Europe at the time, which lends the film incredible relevance today. Much of the film is semi-autobiographical: Stillman spent time working in Barcelona in the early 80's and his own wife is Spanish.

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Posted on September 8, 2008

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