Every day, in every way, I am becoming a better and better blogger junior grade.
Barcelona, Whit Stillman’s follow up to Metropolis, is a similar yet different kind of film. There are hyperverbal characters, but fewer of them. More of the conversations take place outside, because what’s the point of going to Spain and shooting everything indoors?
The events in Barcelona are set during the last decade of the Cold War, which is to say, “the early 1980s.” One of the subplots includes terror attacks, which is sadly still relevant today. On a lighter note: the subject of reletionships will never go out of style.
Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) is a salesperson who works in the Barcelona branch of an American company. His cousin Fred Boynton (Chris Eigeman) is a naval officer sent by the Sixth Fleet as an advance man for their upcoming shore leave. Both actors play variations on their characters from Metropolitan, which leads to an Odd Couple-type relationship.
According to Ted, the best looking women in town work at the trade fair, but he’s sworn off them. He now only dates “unattractive or homely” women, for reasons best opined by him. Fred challenges Ted on this, because this is a Whit Stillman film, and they are known for their lively banter. The cousins go to a costume party with Marta, (Mira Sorvino) and the “unattractive”–according to Ted–Aurora (Nuria Boval).
And then Ted meets Montserrat, (Tushka Bergen) who is no one’s idea of unattractive or homely. Montserrat is living with Ramon, (Pep Munne) and their relationship status is “It’s convoluted.” Ramon is the Rick Von Sloneker of Barcelona, but without being titled aristocracy, or sporting a ponytail. He’s a journalist with an anti-American bent, so he and the cousins have some lively debates. The best of which involves ants. Just trust me.
During my research for this piece, I discovered that Spain had their sexual revolution in the 1980s. Why didn’t anyone tell me this three decades ago!? If I had known this, I would have set sail the day after high school graduation. At the very least, I would have spent a summer vacation there. It couldn’t have gone any worse than Myrtle Beach. Or could it? In Spain, I would have bee seen as an “ugly American,” as opposed to just plain ugly. At the very least: unattractive or homely.
Chronologically speaking, Barcelona comes third in the “Doomed. Bourgeois. In Love.” trilogy. When you see the films in this order, they make perfect sense. Metropolitan is about the last deb season, while The Last Days of Disco is self-explanitory. The preppies of Metropolitan are on the verge of adulthood, while the yuppies in Disco are learning to navagate the “real world.” Along the way, they discover that first jobs don’t always meet expectations. In Disco, Charlotte is all about “aggressive pairing off,” while the Boynton cousins of Barcelona sort of fall into their relationships. That’s how all of mine happen, but I’m not sure I live in the real world. I’d like to live in the world that Stillman created in his films. My love life probably wouldn’t improve, but at least the conversations would be stimulating.
Some may see Barcelona as the least best of the trilogy. Stillman refers to it as a “triptych,” because he’s smart like that. I say “least best” since Barcelona is very good. It’s like Return of the Jedi, but without the migraine-inducing musical number. And it has ants–you can’t go wrong with ants. Oh wait… I forgot about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Never mind.