No, this isn't another entry wholly about movies, although it is inspired by one. Went to see the latest Woody Allen last night. And thank heavens, after the disasters of Match Point and Scoop, the Grand Chief Nebbish has stopped setting his films in London ... my home city, sadly, doesn't seem to inspire him in quite the right way. Vicky Cristina Barcelona marks a partial return to form. It's nothing like his greatest hits -- but hey, the guy is in his seventies by now -- and is structured rather more like a short story than a movie, which might be intentional. But it's beautifully filmed and acted and enjoyable to watch, a meditation on the old Chinese curse 'may you live through interesting times' viewed through the medium of (what else?) tangled interpersonal relationships.
But the real point is this. The film is largely set in two Spanish cities, Barcelona, which I've visited and set fiction in, and Oviedo, which I haven't yet, although having watched this movie I plan to change that as soon as possible. People tend to think of Spain merely in terms of its beach resorts, the costas, with their massive commercialism and their pandering to British diets/drinking habits. But the fact is, get away from these artificial constructs (which the Spanish don't even regard as a genuine part of their nation) and you'll find yourself in one of the most unique countries in Europe, with amazing architecture, great food and wine, terrific culture and an enviable lifestyle built around staying up half the night and enjoying yourself amongst friends ... and that's the case if you're seventeen or seventy. I know people in several cities out there, and have been lucky enough to visit (several times in some cases) Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Granada, Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba, Tarragona, the astonishing Salamanca, and the aforementioned and utterly wonderful Barcelona. If all you've ever done out there is fried on a beach then, believe me, you don't know what you're missing. If there are any other Hispanophiles out there, why not drop in with your thoughts? (The accompanying photo -- mine -- is of the Gaudi House in Barcelona, and there are plenty more from all around the world in the photo gallery on my official website.)