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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Barcelona
Directed by Whit Stillman
Warner Home Video 05/94 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - drug content, brief sex scene

This is a delightful film about some Americans in Spain during the last decade of the Cold War. Ted (Taylor Nichols) is a salesman working for an American firm in Barcelona. His cousin Fred (Chris Eigeman) arrives as an advance man for a visit by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Although related by blood, these two are very prickly with each other. Fred has always thought that his cousin found him stupid, and Ted has never forgiven Fred for sinking his kayak when he was ten. Despite all this, Ted lets Fred move into his apartment.

Barcelona, is writer and director Whit Stillman's follow-up to his well-received debut, Metropolitan, a clever portrait of some rich young socialites in Manhattan. In the spirit of French director Eric Rohmer, this American filmmaker lets the characters in his stories process their values, ideas, and ideals through conversation. Ted spends a lot of time musing about whether he should give up dating beautiful women. The question leads him to talk about sex, romance, and the soulful connections between men and women.

Fred obsesses over whether he was taught to shave properly. If not, then he wonders whether he will pass on the wrong procedure to his son. Both Ted and Fred are perplexed about the right way to handle the rampant anti-Americanism in Barcelona. They each stumble badly when they try to defend U.S. foreign policy in social contexts.

Fred's refusal to play down his patriotism results in his being shot. Ted, who has just been jilted by his girlfriend, Montserrat (Tushka Bergen), rushes to the hospital to be with his cousin. More out of guilt than anything else, he enlists a group of his friends to read to the unconscious Fred. Then, when he least expects it, Ted meets the woman of his dreams. Fred recovers and is free to pursue the lady he has secretly loved all along — Montserrat.

With this film, Whit Stillman proves to be a gifted director with a knack for fashioning entertaining films about idiosyncratic individuals who always have something on their minds and aren't afraid to talk about it. In addition to the subjects already mentioned, Ted, Fred, and their friends converse about politics, religion, music, movies, trade unionism, the culture of sales, and what it means to be an American. It should also be mentioned that Barcelona is very funny and one of the best cross-cultural studies in many a moon.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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