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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Barcelona in 1975 – Antonioni’s The Passenger

Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger - unimaginatively titled El Reportero in Spanish - is playing at Cinemes Meliès, Barcelona’s art house cinema. I just watched it yesterday and it is too fresh in my mind to properly critique. BUT, check it out if you can. Tomorrow is the last day it's showing at the cinema.

Antonioni, I admit, has put me to sleep a couple of times, but The Passenger is truly a gem of a movie. Starring Jack Nicholson and featuring the artistry of Michelangelo Antonioni, this movie had me marveling the whole way through. From the deserts of northern
Africa, to Munich, to the south of Spain, this is an existential movie par excellence, perfectly playing on the theme of rootlessness and identity. Jack Nicholson is a disillusioned reporter who decides to switch identities with a dead man. But, the new identity brings with it some serious baggage, and this leads to danger and romance and a fantastic conclusion in the remote and dusty regions of Almeria Spain. My only complaint would be the acting of the female lead, Maria Schneider. She needed a little chispa – or spark – as they say here in Spain. Nicholson, however, is awesome as always.

A pleasant surprise for me was a twenty minute segment in Barcelona. The year is 1975 – that’s when old Francisco Franco kicked the bucket in case you didn’t know – and this is one of the best depictions of Barcelona I have seen on film. Of course there’s the Ramblas, the obligatory Gaudi architecture, Park Ciutadella ... but the great pre-EasyJet Barcelona is very palpable*.

The trailer doesn’t do the movie justice, but just check out this amazing shot from near the end of the movie (in Almeria Spain).


Cinemes Melies is a great – though slightly rundown – original version art house cinema in Barcelona. It’s also cheap at 4 euros a ticket.

_

* One hilarious thing is that Spaniards are constantly arguing in Antonioni’s Spain. It’s definitely a Spanish quirk that I’ve noticed, and for an Italian to depict Spaniards as loud-mouthed arguers is quite something!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vacation is over

Two recent movies that feed into the guiri phenomenon, this time from the point of view of xenophobic Americans.

HOSTEL

Synopsis:
3 backpackers are in Amsterdam where they get locked out of their youth hostel. They are invited into a man's house where he tells them of a hostel somewhere in eastern Europe where the women are all incredibly hot and have a taste for American men. When they get there, everything is too good to be true - the hostel is "to die for" Written by CROESKE (on IMdb)
TURISTAS

Synopsis:

John Stockwell's thriller Turistas begins when vacationers end up stranded in a little Brazilian village after a bus accident wipes out their transportation. Although many in the group are experienced when it comes to unusual travel destinations, none of them are able to get a handle on this strange village. They soon come to realize that they are stranded somewhere with something much more dangerous than they could have imagined. Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, and Olivia Wilde co-star. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

The best parts of the trailer are the intertitles:

THE ONLY THING WORSE
THAN NOT KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE
IS NOT KNOWING
IF YOU WILL SURVIVE

Monday, July 09, 2007

Guirilandia goes abroad

An aptly named tapas bar across the big puddle is seeking help:
Assistant Manager for Spanish Wine & Tapas Bar (Greenwich Village

Seeking assistant manager passionate about Spanish wine, food, and culture for a small family owned tapas bar located in the heart of the village. We are looking for someone who is hard-working, committed, enthusiastic, honest, and always profesional.
Wednesday, July 11th 4-5PM
Thursday, July 12th 2-3PM

Las Ramblas
170 W. 4th St. (Bet. 6th & 7th Aves.)NYC
There, you can be sure, the beers will be extra large.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Woody never did this

Sitting in Café Principal, watching the freak scene of Muntaner boy toys, micro skirts, computer geeks and Japanese guiris circling the block. Two Moritz, two Ambars, the afternoon winds into early evening and it’s hot and humid. Bochorno they call it, that sweltering summer heat, which never is that intolerable in Barcelona despite what some people say. It just makes folk slightly more violent and horny than usual. These five thick-wristed Dutch guys with scuffed work boots and matching black t-shirts sit at the table next to me. They all look the same with short cropped blond hair, chinos cut off right above the knee and military cargo shorts, dirty fingernails, and each with rolling tobacco on the table in front of him. They can’t speak a word of Spanish, and I’m amused at the little key phrases they have memorized. Of course, “Un cerveza, por favor” is one of them, then there’s “Un café americano, por favor”, or even better, “Un café negro, por favor” – which doesn’t go over too well with the Dominican waiter, but he’s used to the gaggle of guiris and freaks which take up temporary residence on the outside terrace. Suddenly, one guy hops by on one foot at incredible velocity; hops down the sidewalk and disappears behind the crowds of tourists out searching for authentic Barcelona and the locals buying 40 inch LCD televisions on credit (so they can spend their vacations at home during the month of August watching HD movies about the exotic lands and hot sex they will not have the chance to see or get). The Dutch guys are laughing so hard about the random hopping fellow that I start laughing too, signaling to them some kind of depraved alcoholic complicity. One of them turns to me and asks, “Perdone, sabes donde esta la casa putas, por favor?” Ah the bochorno! The gaggle of guiris, the city center. Oh how I can tell the summer is on. Those mythical euro-bringing-golden-egg-laying tourists will saturate puticlubs and chiringuitos, they will wander with their backpacks on reverse, maps in hand, I will sit back and enjoy it all – the cycle repeats.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An Indian guiri in Italy


Indian is Indian, and Italian is Italian, and never the twain shall meet. That is, unless you happen to be dark-skinned and strolling through the streets of Italy – and are wearing more than a loin cloth. Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peters talks about being a guiri in Italy, and how people assumed he was Italian because of his skin color and “western” sartorial style. I totally relate to him. I’m often mistaken for Mexican - or even Spanish or Moroccan - and when I tell people I’m American with Eurasian ancestry, they are always amazed. But Americans are supposed to be blonde and fat! Blonde and fat like the beer we swill when we are unleashed on the streets of Barcelona!

A funny story: a couple years ago I was on my way to the market in my old neighborhood of Sant Pere and coming down the street was this Moroccan guy. I had heartburn that day, and as we were about to pass each other I tapped my chest with my right hand. It was just a natural reaction to the pain in my chest. But the Moroccan guy, seeing me do this, also tapped his chest and said, “Salam Alaikum”. I looked behind me to see if there was anyone else there, but it was just me. Me and my heartburn. I said “Salam Alaikum” back to him and walked on down to the market.