Monday, September 1, 2008

vicky cristina barcelona

while on vacation my woman and i saw the new woody allen film: vicky cristina barcelona.

IMDB offers the following synopsis of the film:

two girlfriends on a summer holiday in spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture.

the reviews tell us that this is the funniest film from woody allen in years, and it is funny, in a disturbing sort of way. i have always thought that most of his comedic films are attempts at whistling past the grave yard. common themes here include the desire and struggle to make art and the impossibility of finding love in the modern world. it is this second point that i wish to develop in more detail.

while watching the film i became increasingly uneasy. no relationship in the film really worked. people desired love, but just couldn't quite make love last or work, or grow. so, while there were genuinely funny moments, there was this shroud of longing and groping as well. in fact, it felt like the world as it really is: full of hope and promise (barcelona was beautiful), but marred and finally silent and cold. i left the film saddened at the dilemma of the loss of meaning brought on by the modern world's loss of a moral center.

this is also presented in his film crimes and misdemeanors, where the impossibility of a search for God in the modern world by modern people is relentlessly presented. this is a very serious film.

[for an interesting discussion of this go here]

perhaps allen's definitive statement of this world view is his film, september. now, this is not one of his most revered films, but i remember viewing it and being haunted by an exchange between a physicist named llyod (jack warden) and a would-be writer named peter (sam waterson):

Peter: You feel so sure of that when you look out on a clear night like tonight and see all those millions of stars? That none of it matters?

Lloyd: I think it’s just as beautiful as you do, and vaguely evocative of some deep truth that always just keeps slipping away, but then my professional perspective overcomes me, a less wishful, more penetrating view of it, and I understand it for what it truly is: haphazard, morally neutral and unimaginably violent.

Peter: Look, we shouldn’t have this conversation. I have to sleep alone tonight.

[for an excellent full discussion of this go here]

i can remember reading an interview with allen long ago where he described, with seriousness, the dilemma of modern people. he talked about the struggle to make a work of art that would last, but that you know you will not last and that ultimately mankind will not last either, so that someday no one will be here to enjoy the sunset, and that unless we somehow answer this question existentially or religiously we will never find meaning.

we can be saddened at the decadence of a world view that does not offer hope for even love.