Barcelona and its vibrant Surrealist landmarks played a lead role in Woody Allen’s whimsical love story. By Steve McKenna.
Witty dialogue, philosophical musings and truly surreal moments – just a few of the ingredients usually found in Woody Allen’s movies. For many viewers, though, it’s the settings that make the most abiding impression. While the buzzing avenues and leafy backstreets of New York, Paris and London have played starring roles in Allen’s romantic comedy-dramas, Vicky Cristina Barcelona put the seductive capital of Catalonia under the lens.
Twentysomething American friends – straitlaced Vicky (played by Rebecca Hall) and adventurous Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) – fly to Barcelona for the summer and are quickly in the sightseeing groove, attracted, like so many tourists, by the eclectic works of Antoni Gaudí.
They peruse Gaudí’s giant unfinished basilica, La Sagrada Família, and mosey by the fairytale chimneys on the rooftop of La Pedrera, a Modernist landmark built by Gaudí between 1906 and 1912. Also on their itinerary is the Fundació Joan Miró museum that showcases another legendary Catalan Surrealist, in Montjuïc’s tranquil hilltop park.
But the girls’ holiday takes an unexpected turn when they dine at Els Quatre Gats, an iconic downtown café-restaurant where Gaudí and other creatives, including Pablo Picasso, hung out. Here, they’re propositioned by lustful painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who tempts them on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Oviedo, a quaint city about 700 kilometres north-west of Barcelona, where they bed down in the palatial Hotel de la Reconquista.
Back in Barcelona, the ensuing love triangle plays out, further muddled by the arrival of Juan Antonio’s tempestuous ex, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), and Vicky’s unsuspecting fiancé, Doug (Chris Messina). The plot unfurls to a backdrop of enviable, wish-you-were-there locations, including the Gaudí-designed playground Park Güell (parkguell.cat), where Vicky and Juan Antonio flirt by the quirky salamander fountain.
They also share a private moment on the breathtaking Sky Walk at Tibidabo, an antique amusement park in the mountains north of Barcelona that’s accessible via a funicular and promises dreamy views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
So when you’re visiting the city after watching (or re-watching) Vicky Cristina Barcelona, don’t be surprised to find yourself wandering its richly photogenic streets, humming the catchy Spanish-language title track performed by local band Giulia y los Tellarini.