Tag Archives: vicky cristina barcelona

Of cars, footballers, fascists and rockers

It’s Good Friday and it’s raining in Barcelona. I’ve finished re-reading Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, and in a vain attempt to overcome the blues that I always get when I come to the end of a great book, I briefly turned on the TV, only to be bombarded by images of all the Holy Week processions taking place around Spain – which felt as a rather creepy mix of the Spanish Inquisition and Disney World.

So I took refuge in YouTube, and I now offer you a chronological selection of idiosyncratic Barcelona goodies for your entertainment.

These first two are the earliest Barcelona films I’ve been able to find on YT – the first one is truly charming, one gets a wonderful sense of the city as a Mediterranean port, and I love the images of a deserted, brand-new Park Guell patrolled by sabre-wielding policemen.

Barcelona 1900 – La perla del mediterráneo

Barcelona 1908

The Spanish Civil War in thirteen minutes and a half:

Barcelona 19 July 1936 partA

Guerra Civil Española -Bombardeos sobre Barcelona

Entrada de los fascistas en Barcelona 1/2

The Seat 600 was the poster boy of the Spanish economic miracle of the 1960s. It was launched in 1957, manufactured in Barcelona, and easy enough for a woman to drive!


Lanzamiento del Seat 600

Seat 600

The 60s were the decade of massive migration into Barcelona from the South of Spain, and with the influx of immigrants came the shantytowns. And the music: la Rumba Catalana was born. Peret sang Catalan rumba in the 60s, and Manu Chao a different kind of fusion rumba many decades later.

Campo de la bota

peret – el mig amic (galas del sábado)

Manu Chao – La rumba de Barcelona

In November 1975, Franco dies. The city -the country- lived on the razor’s edge.

Barcelona. Manifestacions anifranquistes 1976

The newly democratic Barcelona of the early 80’s still carried the dusty weight of almost four decades of dictatorship on its shoulders. Loquillo, one of the best Spanish rockers of the decade, sang of his city with perfect pitch, with just enough rage and anomie to capture the spirit of a youth culture about to explode in an extasy of pre-olympic urban transformation.

Loquillo y los Trogloditas – Barcelona Ciudad

Loquillo y Los Trogloditas – Avenida de la luz

Here’s the transformation itself, in a scary stop-motion video that was produced by HOLSA, the Barcelona Olympic public-private body that coordinated the urban renovation works. And no, the disappearance of the old farmer and his artichoke fields under a sea of cement isn’t meant as an ironic twist.

Barcelona 1992 La Transformación

In 2004, the City Council tried to pull another urban regeneration coup like the one in ’92 and invented the Universal Forum of Cultures, to take over a whole new chunk of city, build it up, prettify it, redesign it and hand it over to people other than those that were there to begin with. This time round, the Barcelonese were not too happy with the process and the Council lost the popularity contest. But got away with it anyway.

FORUM Barcelona 2004

Coop City 1 – Barcelona Post Forum 2004

And then came the tourists, among them Woody, Vicky and Cristina. Watch the movie trailer first, then the Barcelona City Council’s tourism promotion video, and try to spot the differences. (Answer: it’s the dolphins).

Landing at Barcelona’s El Prat

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Trailer

Barcelona Turisme Promo Video

Some tourists actually stay on for a while and compete for jobs with the immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe

Under the Table in Barcelona – Lonely Planet Travel Video

El Raval de Barcelona: un barrio que ya no es lo que era

And last but not least, Barça.

Barcelona: The Inside Story (Storyville BBC) part 1


Dr Jeckyll Mr Hyde Barcelona

Woody Allen’s film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which was filmed here last year and premiered in the city a few days ago, has generated a lot of controversy along the road. The hot topic was the rumour that it received considerable financial support from local public institutions such as the Generalitat (Catalan regional government), the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and the Barcelona Municipality (the latter to the tune of one million euros or so). Others insisted Allen’s film had been no exception and had benefited from the usual range of institutional support offered to filmmakers in Spain.

There has been much bad feeling buzzing around Barcelona for the last few years as the locals have felt increasingly overwhelmed by the sell-out success of the Barcelona Brand, which has transformed the city almost beyond recognition, not always for the best. Many complain that they now live in a theme-park, and that the entrance ticket is beyond their means. And Allen’s film will only make things worse in that respect – Javier Bardem, the film’s male lead, commented in a recent interview that he felt sorry for the Barcelonese: ‘Where are you going to put all the people that will now flock to the city, in ever greater numbers?’ he wondered.

Woody Allen has said that the Barcelona of his film is the one seen by two young American tourists. I will happily report on exactly what kind of Barcelona that is, but I expect to see a lot of Gaudi architecture and possibly (incongruously) a bit of flamenco. More on that in a later post.

In the meantime, while the official Barcelona Brand cannot but be strengthed by the film, another branding battle is taking place around the city’s image, this time centered on a violent new computer game that uses the Catalan capital’s streets as its playground. The Wheelman, starring Vin Diesel, has a violent storyline of gang warfare, corruption and chaos. The game’s webpage explains that it is

Set in the exotic location of Barcelona, Spain. This classic European city is densely populated with traffic and pedestrians that react intelligently to your actions as you roam around realistic environments filled with massively destructible objects.

That all sounds pretty realistic to me, except for the intelligent reaction bit. And I love the idea of ‘massively destructible objects’ as an actual category of things. But as you can well imagine, the Barcelona Municipality was not pleased. Its lawyers have spent all summer trying to find a legal base to ban Midway, the game’s producer, from using Barcelona as a location.

Unfortunately the press reported yesterday that they had been unsuccessful, and the game will be released in a few weeks. Vin Diesel will be free to roam the exotic Catalan streets massively destroying every single destructible object (and individual) in his path. Montserrat Ballarin, the town Councillor in charge of the proceedings, has explained that Barcelona can’t sue Midway for tainting its image, because cities don’t actually seem to legally own their image:

No se puede reclamar a los creadores que resarzan por los daños que pueden provocar a la imagen de Barcelona, porque las ciudades no tienen recogido ese derecho“, ha explicado la concejal. [source]