Vicky Christina Barcelona

(Spain/USA, 2008, 96 mins.) Woody Allen went to Spain to film his most recent and many say his most enjoyable study of human relationships.  Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Rebecca Hall shine in this film as very determined people trying to understand and negotiate their irrational and often comical passions for each other. The energy in Woody Allen’s work often comes from a tension between internal desires and external circumstances. Here these forces are represented by a soothing voice-over narration that occasionally expresses the private feelings of Vicky and Christina, while the city of Barcelona serves beautifully as a stable exterior backdrop for a couple of Americans who aren’t always so stable. Javier Bardem as a dashing Spanish painter with plenty of artistic license makes this the kind of study abroad trip your parents would not want you to take.