Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 17, 2016 by Dennis Amith
If you have been exposed to Whit Stillman’s films such as “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and his more recent “Damsels in Distress”, each of these films have an undercurrent of intelligent storytelling, fascinating conversations but also interesting characters. “Barcelona” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1994 Film Barcelona, Inc. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807
YEAR OF FILM: 1994
DURATION: 101 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 2.0 Surround with English SDH Subtitles
COMPANY: Warner Bros./THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016
Directed by Whit Stillman
Written by Whit Stillman
Produced by Whit Stillman, Antonio Llorens, Jordi Tusell
Associate Producer: Edmon Roch, Cecilia Kate Roque
Line Producer: Victoria Borras, Rosa Romero
Music by Mark Suozzo
Cinematography by John Thomas
Edited by Christopher Tellefsen
Casting by Billy Hopkins, Simone Reynolds
Production Design by Jose Maria Botines
Costume Design by Edi Giguere
Taylor Nicholas as Ted Boynton
Chris Eigeman as Fred Boynton
Tushka Bergen as Montserrat Raventos
Mira Sorvino as Marta Ferrer
Pep Munne as Ramone
Hellena Taylor as Greta
Nuria Badia as Aurora Boval
Thomas Gibson as Dickie Taylor
Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins—a salesman and a navy officer—argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film’s title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, and Mira Sorvino.
For filmmaker Whit Stillman, his experience living in Spain during the early ’80s, would lead him to create his first studio-financed film, “Barcelona”.
The film would reunite Stillman with his “Metropolitan” actors Taylor Nichols (“Jurassic Park III”, “Boiler Room”, “Godzilla”) and Chris Eigeman (“Maid in Manhattan”, “Arbitrage”, “The Last Days of Disco”).
The film would also star Tushka Bergen (“Swing Kids”, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”), Mira Sorvino (“Replacement Killers”, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”, “Mimic”), Hellena Taylor (best known for the voice of video game character, “Bayonetta”), Pep Munne (“Lovers of the Arctic Circle”, “The Fish Child”) and Thomas Gibson (“Dharma & Greg”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Criminal Minds”).
And now Whit Stillman’s film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
“Barcelona” is set in the early 1980’s when anti-American sentiment is high.
The film revolves around an uptight Chicago salesman Ted Boynton (portrayed by Taylor Nichols) who finds out that the cousin he doesn’t care much for, Fred Boynton (portrayed by Chris Eigeman), a naval officer, is coming to stay with him unexpectedly for a short amount of time.
Fred tells Ted that he has been sent to Barcelona to handle public relations on behalf of a U.S. fleet schedule to arrive later. And he is need of Ted’s help to introduce him to the area, so he can scout the territory. And as the two look at various popular locations, Ted warns Fred of the “trade show girls”, who often frequent the bars and clubs in Barcelona.
Throughout the film, we learn about how these two cousins have many years of conflict and are total opposites. Both develop relationships with women in Barcelona. Despite Ted having numerous bad experiences with them, thus he swears off dating beautiful women.
For Fred, he is dating the opinionated Marta Ferrer (portrayed by Mira Sorvino), a Trade Fair employee. While Ted is dating Montserrat Raventos, a blonde local working at Fira de Barcelona (Barcelona Traid Fair), but also lives with her lover Ramon (portrayed by Pep Munne), a journalist who is not so fond of Americans.
And as Fred’s one day of staying with Ted starts to transition into multiple days, will these cousins grow to appreciate each other or will they drive each other nuts?
Also, will Ted and Fred find their true calling in Barcelona?
“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic as skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep, while outdoor scenes are vibrant. There is good amount of detail and for the most part, picture quality is an improvement from the old Warner Bros. DVD release.
According to the Criterion Collection, “Supervised by Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner fro the 35 mm a/B original camera negative, at MTI Film in Los Angeles. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices , and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker”.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” is presented in lossless English 2.0 surround. Dialogue and disco music are crystal clear through the front channels.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original 2.0 surround sountrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm original magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4. Pleas be sure to enable Dolby Pro Logic decoding on your receiver to properly play the Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack.”
Subtitles are in English SDH.
“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring the 2002 audio commentary with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
- Video Essay – (20:50) Film critic Farran Smith Nehme looks at the themes and characters of Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and “Barcelona”.
- The Making of “Barcelona” – (5:32) A brief documentary shot on location during the film of “Barcelona” in 1993.
- Deleted Scenes – (2:52) Featuring three deleted scenes with optional audio commentary with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
- Alternate Ending – (4:26) The alternate ending with optional audio commentary with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
- Today – (5:09) A 1994 episode of The “Today” Show with host Katie Couric and director Whit Stillman about “Barcelona”.
- The Dick Cavett Show – (24:32) An interview from January 22, 1991 between host Dick Cavett and director Whit Stillman.
- Charlie Rose – (13:31) A July 29, 1994 episode of “Charlie Rose” featuring an interview with Rose and director Whit Stillman.
- Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Barcelona”.
“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” comes with a five-page foldout which comes with the essay “Innocence Abroad” by Haden Guest.
Watching “Barcelona”, while a much different film compared to my Whit Stillman favorite, “Metropolitan”, the intelligent conversations are just as important in this film and I found it to be quite delightful.
Ted and Fred are men with different perspectives in life, with Ted who is often serious and talks to everyone else, as if he was talking with a like-minded academic with similar ideals. He doesn’t dumb down his ideals or intellect for anyone, but while it looks like his life is fully-adjusted, in truth, Ted is trying to find his own way in Barcelona.
Worried about his sales performance and losing his job, he also has had failed relationships and hopes to meet a woman that would change his life. And in that, he has found Montserrat Raventos, a beautiful blonde local. And as much as you think these two have got a good thing going, she drops a bombshell that she lives with her lover, Ramone, a “not so fond of Americans” journalist.
But while you think Ramone would be the perfect antagonist in the storyline, the true opposite and rival is Ted’s cousin, Fred. The two have had conflicts since childhood but yet are not able to agree. Each time they are together, their conversations are almost as each are trying to one-up each other.
The film also draws from director Whit Stillman’s life in Barcelona during the ’80s. Stillman when discussing the film has talked about the anti-American sentiment in Spain during the early ’80s and it’s a sentiment that is seen quite often in the film as Ted champions capitalism, Fred on the other hand is proud to support the military, despite both of them being with Barcelona women, opinions towards them are not too high.
The more you watch this film, you start to learn that the film is in truth two men trying to find their own way. Despite the cousins being the odd couple, both are essential to each other in their pursuit of self-discovery and what is around them.
As for the Blu-ray release of “Barcelona”, the film looks fantastic in HD as picture quality shows much better color and clarity, as well as detail compared to the old DVD release. Lossless audio is crystal clear, while special features for “Barcelona” features more features that tend to celebrate Whit Stillman’s career as a filmmaker, primarily for his first three films.
Overall, if you have been exposed to Whit Stillman’s films such as “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and his more recent “Damsels in Distress”, each of these films have an undercurrent of intelligent storytelling, fascinating conversations but also interesting characters.
“Barcelona” is recommended!
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