Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week of August 29 to Sept. 4 -- Phil Mann

What's On At The Tropic

by Phil Mann

If you're like me, you've gone loyally to the annual Woody Allen movie, always with the hope that the mastermind of Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and her Sisters would again let us find out about ourselves by watching others. That is the genius of fiction, in film as well as in literature, and no one can do it better than Woody when he's on target. And he is again, with VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. Maybe it's the sultry Spanish setting, but the silly mysteries of his English period are a thing of the past.

Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) and Vicky (Rebecca Hall), as two American friends spending the summer in Barcelona, represent two poles of youthful aspiration. Cristina is the rebel looking for passion and Vicky the solid citizen looking for a stable future. On the male side, we have Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) the sexy artist, and Doug (Chris Messina) the successful MBA. And as the title suggests, a fifth major character is Spain, represented by Penelope Cruz, plus the Catalonian capital city (pronounced Barthelona, Ms. Cruz tells us in interviews) and rural Oviedo. Writer/Director Allen is no longer on screen, but an Allenesque narrator reminds who is really stirring this plot. The onscreen Woody Allen may have morphed into Ms. Johansson. She’s the one who can’t find herself. Well, actually no one can find themselves, none of the Americans at least. The Spaniards, who have had a few more centuries to look, seem to be a little closer to the solution, but they’re making a different mess of their lives.

I understand that the Spanish government offered Allen great financial incentives to film a movie there. If so, it's the best investment they ever made. There are, of course, no poor people, or even poorly furnished homes, in Woody Allen movies, and this is one is no exception. I'm going to book some tickets on Iberia as soon as I finish this column.

Also opening this week is TELL NO ONE, the French crime thriller that swept this year’s Cesar awards. It's based on an American crime novel and, as some reviewers have noted, it seems like a Hitchcock movie dubbed in French. If you're an "I don't do subtitles" type, maybe this is the movie to make you get your reading glasses out. You'll be sitting on the edge of your seat anyhow. The setting is Paris, but unlike the Woody Allen movie, this is a real city rather than a travelogue fantasy.

So take your choice, get into your psyche while watching gorgeous Spain, or lose yourself in the non-tourist streets of Paris. There’s also a third choice, because the mean streets of Gotham city are also hanging around with the continuing run of THE DARK KNIGHT.

There’s a whole world at the Tropic, your cool summer haven.

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