Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Barcelona: the movies

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about Woody Allen's new movie 'Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona'. Last Saturday I decided to go to the movies with my wife and watch it. I felt a little bit nervous, because I was not totally sure how my city and my country Catalonia would be portrayed. I was hoping that Woody Allen would, at least, reflect a little bit the Catalan culture and language.

The movie was OK, no masterpiece, but, in a way, entertaining. However the way Barcelona was portrayed was a total disappointment. Barcelona was only used as a postcard, as a beautiful setting and that was all. At the beginning of the film, there were a few references to Catalonia as a result of the one million Euro subsidy by the Barcelona mayor (by the way, and excellent investment, since I am sure that American tourists will pour into the city), but the plot was more suited for Madrid, Seville, Oviedo or Albacete. The non American protagonists, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz had nothing that I would qualify as Catalan, not even the name, Bardem's character, the Catalan painter, was called Juan Antonio Gonzalo and was born in Oviedo. In addition to that, I found Penelope Cruz's character vulgar and uninspiring (and she even had a line with a very racist comment against Chinese that embarrassed me and my wife, not her fault but the Director's, but really unacceptable)
I think that "Vicky, Cristina, Oviedo" would have been a much better choice for title. It is funny that in the Catalan version of the movie the Americans speak Catalan and the "alleged" Catalans speak Spanish to each other (though the trailer tries to hide this fact). Not even the signage was in Catalan.
The only good news for Catalan Don Juans is that if the approach a pair of American girls having dinner in a Barcelona restaurant and they propose to them a one night stand, there is a 50/50 chance that they will not be rejected flat out, and the probability improves if they sport a 3-day beard.

The best thing of the night, however, was dinner. We went to Legal Seafood in Peabody (MA). We had Cape Cod oysters, pan seared tuna (almost raw) with soya sauce and wasabe, crab cakes and Sam Adams summer ale. After two minutes, my irritation was gone.

On the flip side, a few weeks ago, while trying to Netflix Woody Allen's movie to put it in my cue, I discovered a 1994 movie called Barcelona. Though that movie was no masterpiece either and actually had some remote similarities with Woody Allen's one, I found that it reflected Barcelona's character much better and avoided the stereotypes in many occasions. The main female characters are called Montserrat Raventos and Marta Ferrer, they have fair hair and there is clear evidence that the movie Director Whit Stillman understood the differences between the Catalan and the Spanish culture and was sensitive enough to have Catalan actors playing the secondary roles (Pep Munné and Núria Badia).
Despite all this, he succumbed to the pressures of the producer and had to add a flamenco scene (you know, the usual flamenco dance that Catalan girls rehearse after the daily nap*).

* Note for the "guiris": I am kidding

Saturday, September 6, 2008


In the last couple of posts, I have managed to draw criticism (to say it mildly) from all parts of the spectrum: Catalan nationalists, Spanish nationalists, the Anglo world, generally amused by the irrelevant fights between Catalans and Spaniards, taking sides as though this were a soccer match being watched sitting in the couch, drinking beer and eating popcorn, but jumping as grasshoppers when someone dares to criticize them a little bit.
So far, the only ones who did not call me names have been the Swedish, let’s see for how long.

I do not know whether you read an article in the Financial Times called PIGS in the muck. The pejorative acronym PIGS used by the Financial Times refers to the countries Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. The article has some merit, but, once again shows the total lack of respect of the Anglo world for those countries and territories below the virtual Pyrenees (with the exception of Gibraltar).
Despite the cheap shots, I agree with the substance of the article, the fact that the economies of those 4 countries have grown out of speculation: “wages rose, debt levels ballooned, as did house prices and consumption”. The foundations of those economies are weak and a recession would hit those countries much harder, especially Spain, as the FT points out. Let’s not forget that unemployment in Spain will very soon reach the 11% mark.

When attacked, I normally side with Spain, but I would like to do it out of juxtaposition and friendship, not out of inclusion and submission. The truth is that I do not want my country, Catalonia, to be part of the PIGS. I want Catalonia to be one of the CANDIES (Catalonia, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Euskadi and Sweden), small countries with strong economic fundamentals, with diversified economies, with real added value activities, with outstanding education systems and international focus.
Catalonia has all the ingredients to be one of the CANDIES, but the fact that Catalonia is part of Spain and has limited control of its policies and resources makes it impossible (together with the fact that the Catalan politicians are totally inept).

In one of my next posts, however, I plan to theorize about those grandiose countries which, for a variety of reasons, believe that they are the center of the universe, France, UK, China, Korea and USA, also known as, FUCK-U (as first described in the LT, the Llorens Times).