Woody Allen and Narration

Vicky Cristiana BarcelonaWoody Allen has impressed me with his use of narration. I think it goes back to his fundamental orientation as a short story writer. In particular, Broadway Danny Rose is probably the best use of narration in a film ever. And I think everyone remembers the Greek chorus in Mighty Aphrodite.

I’ve gotten out of touch with Woody Allen. I haven’t seen any of his films in the theater since Alice and the last of his films I’ve even seen is The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which is not even that recent. So I’ve been taking steps to get up to date.

My first effort was to watch his 2008 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It is a pleasant enough film with many things we have come to expect from Woody Allen: clever dialog, truly surprising plot twists, and a vague ending. But that’s not what I noticed. I noticed the narration that blanketed the film.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is narrated by a man who I guess is supposed to be the author of what Allen sees as the novel the film is based upon. It is clearly an omniscient narrator, because he knows everything that is going on in the minds of all the characters. Just the same, he is not any of the characters in the film. And he sticks out in the film, never really melding with the film.

I would have really liked this film if it hadn’t been for the narration. What’s more, it isn’t necessary. Nothing narrated wasn’t clear from the many excellent performances in the film. My question is why: “Why did Allen add this narration?” Was he assuming that his audience was too stupid or distracted to figure out the film without being told?

Also, like I implied, the ending was weak.