Movie Marketing Madness: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

It’s always a to-do when Woody Allen makes a new movie. The director’s long and rich history gives everyone something to discuss, with topics ranging from the films themselves to his colored personal life.

Allen has a habit of finding a muse and sticking with her for a while, someone who doesn’t seem to mind the misogynistic and narcissistic characters, especially the lead one that he often fills the role of. That used to be Diane Keaton, then Mia Farrow. For a while that position was unfilled until recently he discovered Scarlett Johansson.

She has now appeared in three of Allen’s movies, including the newest one, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The story involves two female friends to decide to head to Barcelona on vacation. Once there they meet an artist with a troubled love life played by Javier Bardem and they begin an odd relationship with him and his ex-wife, played by Penelope Cruz.

The Poster

The movie’s sole poster is pretty much what you would expect from a Woody Allen film. It shows three of the four main characters (Rebecca Hall gets screwed over and dropped from the image) all very close and, the implication is, very intimate. Cruz is hanging on Bardem and Johansson is right there next to them looking wispy as always.

It doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the movie. The copy just below the title gives you a slight hint about it involving lives in progress and how that compares to creating a work of art, but that’s about it. If you’re just looking at the image you’ll have little idea about the plot, but the designers are apparently hoping you’ll be attracted enough by that image and not worry too much about the story.

The Trailers

While an attempt appears to have been made to disappear it from the world, there was actually a teaser trailer for the movie. That initial spot featured no dialogue but was just a compilation of footage with a Spanish-language song over it and the movie’s title at the end. The scenes that are shown give you a rough, rough idea of what the movie is going to be about, showing that Javier Bardem winds up in bed with all three of the female leads and showing various combinations of him and the ladies gallivanting about the city and engaging in any of a number of amorous activities.

I can kind of see why it’s being un-remembered. Since Allen’s movies are always so heavy on the dialogue and this contains none of that it winds up being very awkward looking. We see the characters talking to each other but can’t hear what’s coming out of their mouths. It’s just odd and really appears to have been put together to prove to the world that the movie had actually been shot and wasn’t a figment of Allen’s imagination.

The second, more official and officially recognized trailer is much more traditional and much more effective. We’re introduced to Cristina and Vicky, two Americans who are going to take a vacation in Barcelona. Once there they meet Bardem’s character, an artist who attempts to seduce them both and who is also still oddly emotionally involved with his ex, played by Penelope Cruz, who also previously tried to kill him.

We’re once again shown how all these variations on coupling evolve and transition over the course of the movie. Everyone is involved with everyone else, including, famously, Johansson and Cruz, who share what reportedly is a very un-sexy kiss in a dark room.

Online

The movie’s official website is a nice, albeit low-key affair.

The first section here is “About,” which contains a very brief synopsis under Story and some not-quite-as-brief notes under The Production. The latter only runs about five paragraphs or so, which means there’s not much detail at all that can be gone into, so it’s primarily concerned with talking about how wonderful and inspired Allen is. It’s not necessarily bad, just far too short.

“Video” is just the second trailer and “Gallery” is a scant six still photos. “Bios” contains the usual biography and film history of the major players in the movie as well as Allen, who actually just has his films listed with no additional information provided.

A handful of pull quotes from some major publications and critical outlets are contained under “Acclaim,” which is a little full of itself. Most sites just call this “Press” or something.

The last section is actually a link to the movie’s Facebook fan page. That page has the movie’s poster, some photos and the trailer and that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing to speak of.

Media and Publicity

There’s a great pattern the press follows when a new Woody Allen movie comes out. Everyone tries to peg the moment when Allen lost it as a director/writer/actor, with everyone saying he hasn’t been very good since (insert name of mid-70s to early-80s title here) and that he just appears to be coasting. Occasionally someone pegs something more recent as a brief glimmer of hope but for the most part it’s all about remembering how great he once was and how far he’s fallen.

For the record, I think there’s only a grain of truth to that idea. Sure, some of his recent films have been misfires, but the guy puts out a new movie every year and they’re always at least worth checking out. I’d like to point out to the critics that engage in so much rear-view mirror gazing that not all their columns are winners either.

Overall

At first my inclination was to refer to this campaign as “subdued.” But that’s not quite accurate. It’s a decent campaign but it’s just not trying very hard (a charge that’s been leveled at Allen himself in recent years) to convince us. It counts to a large extent on not so much Allen’s name recognition and, I guess, our desire to see a laid-back story about three or four people all getting involved with each other.

There’s just not a very strong call to action at all in the campaign and that keeps it from cutting through the rest of the media clutter to almost any extent at all. It’s going to appeal to some extent to the hard-core Allen fans and maybe a few intrigued by the Johansson/Cruz kiss publicity, but that’s going to (realistically) be a small number.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 8/20/08: Karina rightly points out that Allen’s use of sex to sell whatever his latest movie is isn’t exactly new. She also defends late-era Woody in general and I agree with all her points about Allen’s overall thematic explorations as a filmmaker.

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