By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It's funny how even the most egotistical and aversive people can sometimes become companions. The consistency of their behavior can produce a bond formed through the continual effort of toleration.
Whit Stillman's (Metropolitan) new serio-comic movie, Barcelona, is about such a relationship and the film derives irony from the fact that the two most verbally opposed characters in the movie find themselves continually together in unspoken companionship. Barcelona is set in the early '80s, and the buffeting characters are two estranged cousins named Ted and Fred (Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman).
Ted is a devoted sales agent for a Chicago firm working in Barcelona. One rainy night, Fred appears on his doorstep needing a place to stay. Ted reluctantly acquiesces and Fred moves in. Fred, an arrogant and abrasive individual, has been stationed in Barcelona as an "advance man" for the U.S. Navy, but the time is ripe with antagonism toward NATO and American political influence.
The movie follows Ted and Fred as they become entangled in the politics of their jobs and the complex relationships they develop between two Barcelonan women. Most of the movie's humor derives from Ted and Fred's verbal bantering and their bewildering cultural evaluations.
A relationship from Ted's recent past causes him to question his morality and self-worth. Fred becomes enraged when he discovers the anti-American sentiment rampant in the city and proceeds to wear his Navy uniform to discos and nightclubs, flaunting his position. Eventually, the cultural misunderstandings inherent in both their relationships and the society around them culminate in an act of violence.
Barcelona is written and directed by Whit Stillman. He is a visually simplistic storyteller whose style is reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch. His stoical camera rarely moves and simply records ordinary people who sit around at social gatherings and deliberate about their society.
Stillman uses selective editing to create associations and drama. One effective scene involves Ted walking out of a room to meet an unidentified woman. The scene is broken up into four separate shots: one of Ted leaving his room, two romantic shots of his ex-girlfriend that were seen earlier in the movie and a shot of him meeting a different girl. The girlfriend's unexpected imagery connects the audience with Ted's hopes and expectations (and subsequent disappointment) without resorting to expository dialogue. Stillman assembles the whole movie efficiently and concisely.
Barcelona is a restrained movie that deemphasizes action and melodrama and brings into play the infuriating and often humorous aspects of relating to difficult people and a foreign culture. Its unique elements and simplistic style make it thought-provoking, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Barcelona is showing at the Catalina Cinemas, 2320 N. Campbell Ave., 881-0616 Read Next Article