luni, 26 iunie 2017

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman

Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman
10 out of 10

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best comedies that I know.
It is definitely one of my favorites.

Sophisticated, modern, fresh, sparkling, witty and unusual.
It is funny throughout and at the beginning we meet the protagonists, Ted, who is a regular man involved in sales and his visiting, outré cousin who talks to some women, at a disco where he describes his relative:

“Fred: He's not at all the way he seems. He might seem like a typical American, like a big unsophisticated child, but he's far more complex than that. Have you ever heard of the Marquis de Sade? Ted's a great admirer of de Sade. And a follower of Dr. Johnson. He's a complex - and in some ways dangerous - man. He has a serious romantic illusion problem. Women find him fascinating. His nickname is "Punta de Diamante" - point of a diamond. You see that odd expression on his face? Under the apparently very normal clothes he's wearing are these narrow leather straps drawn taut so that when he dances...”

And the dialogue keeps the same tone, with interesting propositions, challenging stories and metaphors on almost everything, from love to NATO, from the anti-Americanism of the moment to…pretended sadism.
The aforementioned lie about Ted will become somehow part of the folklore, making him more interesting.

-          “Fred: You think wedding vows are going to change everything? God, your naiveté is astounding! Didn't you see "The Graduate"?
-          Ted: You can remember "The Graduate"?
-          Fred: Yeah, I can remember a few things. Apparently you don't. The end? Katharine Ross has just married this really cool guy - tall, blond, incredibly popular, the make-out king of his fraternity in Berkeley - when this obnoxious Dustin Hoffman character shows up at the back of the church, acting like a total asshole. "Elaine! Elaine!" Does Katharine Ross tell Dustin Hoffman, "Get lost, creep. I'm a married woman"? No. She runs off with him - on a bus. That is the reality.”

As proved by the above quotes, Fred has a different view, outrageous and hilarious most often on various subjects.
Including The Graduate and jazz, on the latter he says: “My jazz rule is: If you can't dance to it, you don't want to know about it.”

In can appear as a bit thick and indeed, when they have another exchange, it is: Marta: “You seem very intelligent for an American…Fred: Well, I'm not.”
And if not all the lines contain the same level, which is impossible and counterproductive, most of the lines are sparkling

When they talk about positive thinking, Ted remarks that it makes him depressed and he does suffer a sort of Awakening.
He is a stuffy, “Bible dancing, goody- goody” in the words of the same, inventive cousin who has other interesting ideas.

Fred claims that the anti-Americanism has roots in sexual impotence, which is preposterous I guess, but so is the exaggerated, violent, murderous attitude of so many opponents of America at the time, many of whom were in Spain.
At a party, there is another moment that I thought hilarious, when Ted is trying to make an analogy with…ants.

-          “Well, take... take these ants. In the U.S. view, a small group, or cadre, of fierce red ants have taken power and are oppressing the black ant majority. Now the stated U.S. policy is to aid those black ants opposing the red ants in hopes of restoring democracy, and to impede the red ants from assisting their red ant comrades in neighboring ant colonies.”

To which Ramon, a man that seemed pretentious, arrogant and stupid in his outrageous stand against anything America, protests vehemently.
But Fred, with his complex personality that proved he can be astonishingly creative, humorous and likeable and then soon after silly, naïve and provocative, has a final, excellent point:

-          Fred: Where are the red ants?
-          Ted: [pointing to an ant hill] There….[Fred crushes the ants]

And there are so many more gems, including the moment when Fred is told about Americans, who are more violent and he denies it, with the woman continuing and emphasizing the number of victims killed in shootings…”Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots…”
And there is more on Communicating Across Cultures: “You see, that's one of the great things about getting involved with someone from another country. You can't take it personally. What's really terrific is that when we act in ways which might objectively be considered asshole-ish or incredibly annoying... they don't get upset at all. They don't take it personally. They just assume it's some national characteristic.

Fred: Cosa de gringos.

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