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'Metropolitan' Doesn't Work Abroad

FILM

By G. WILLIAM Winborn

Barcelona

Directed by Whit Stillman '73

At local theaters

Opens today

Whit Stillman '73 is best known for his small masterpiece documenting the debutante scene of New York, "Metropolitan." Unfortunately his newest, and next film, "Barcelona" may tarnish this reputation. But rightly so.

"Barcelona" follows two cousins through their slow, boring, meaningless lives in Barcelona, Spain. The setting is post-Franco Spain where discos still reign and xenophobic feeling towards Americans is rampant. Taylor Nichols plays Ted Boynton, an American working for an international motor company who is content to stay at home and dance while reading his Bible. (By the way, this was the most interesting scene of the entire film). His placid life is interrupted when his cousin Fred (Chris Eigeman) arrives, purportedly the lead man for his naval ship which is supposed to arrive in Barcelona soon. Fred likes to party and make up lewd jokes about Ted's nonexistent sex-life. But this all sounds more interesting than the film actually is.

Stillman cast these two actors directly after finishing "Metropolitan" and their characters do not seem to have progressed much since then. Nichols still plays the over-earnest philosopher and Eigeman continues to play the smart-alecky underling. It's as if Stillman moved the two of them from their New York high rises to the streets of Barcelona and told them to make the best of the locals.

The only mildly amusing and intellectually stimulating part of the storyline is the close-minded reactions Fred and Ted (no it is not an "excellent" or even "bogus" adventure) have to the anti-American sentiment in Barcelona. During his first tour of the city, Fred comes upon a wall scrawled with anti-American, anti-NATO slogans. Equipped with his felt-tipped pen, Fred changes the Spanish word for pigs ("cerdos") to that for deers ("ciervos"). It ends up reading "Yankee Deers Go Home." The problem here is that you don't know if you are supposed to laugh or scoff.

What this part of the storyline does communicate quite well is the arrogance and impudence Americans often display. Call me anti-American if you will, but the hodgepodge of American culture, from its fashion to its slang, does not have to be adopted by the world's population. I admire and love and contribute to American culture as much as the next person, but I do not believe it has be forced upon everyone else in the world. In many ways Americans are completely unaware of the sentiment this awakens in other people. They think people from other countries are rude or smell or do not bathe often enough. We are recent arrivals on the world scene and nothing is more obnoxious than making the wrong first impression then trying to cover for it by being even more beligerent and arrogant. Stillman, an ex-patriate for much of his life, understand this sentiment. However, he never communicates which side of the issue he leans toward. Here, in essence, lies the heart of the problem with the film. Either I'm too thick or Stillman should have given more purpose, direction and clarification to the story he is trying to tell. It is a love story? Not really. He never tells us if Ted's impression of women, which he tires to communicate at the beginning of the film, ever really changes. And the near-death trauma which Fred undergoes drags on entirely too long, leading to no concrete resolution in the end.

I think Stillman should have stayed with a narrow scope like he did in "Metropolitan." In "Barcelona" he spreads over too many incongruous issues and never resolves them. In the end, you walk away not knowing, and really not caring what happened in the film.

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