Location has always played a huge role in Woody Allen’s films, and nine out of ten times it’s been Manhattan. With Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the 72-year-old director took an unlikely detour to Spain and came back with his freshest film in years. Gone is the hyperkinetic ragtime-tinged jazz that scored classics Sleeper and Bananas. In its place we have an inspired compilation of Spanish guitar music, “reflecting the feeling of Spain or certainly Barcelona as I’ve portrayed it,” Allen writes.
Only two tracks feature vocals—“Barcelona” and “La Ley Del Retiro”, both by Giulia y los Tellari—and they are fabulous. The former becomes a sort of quirky theme song that builds to the most irresistible climax of wah-wah harmonica and Spanish chanting. Like the film, it captures both humor and sexuality. The latter is a sultry, instrumentally dense waltz that perfectly soundtracks the film’s most intense love scene. I don’t know Spanish, but the singer’s raspy moans are evocative enough. The rest of the album explores the gorgeously intimate flamenco solos that moved Rebecca Hall’s character in the film (“Granada”, “El Noi De La Mare”), as well as the bouncier Mexican jams that so richly captured this uniquely Spanish ambiance. That said, this soundtrack flows so freely on its own merit—seeing the film is no prerequisite.