Barcelona (1994): Whit Stillman’s Second Film

Jokingly described by Whit Stillman as “Metropolitan meets Where the Boys Are meets Year of Living Dangerously,” “Barcelona” is a darker, more acidic comedy than his first film, Metropolitan, given by the terrorist element in the story.

Set in the early 1980s, it’s a tale of two Americans, one a businessman, the other a naval lieutenant, during the end of the Cold War. The duo must make moral choices about love and career, against a backdrop of anti-Americanism and terrorists attack.

As in “Metropolitan,” Stillman constructs characters that initially are not particularly likable, and then proceeds with humanizing them by adding layers of characterization.

The two protagonists are sort of a variation on the notion of “gentleman and an officer.”

Ted (Taylor Nichols) is an American sales executive, and Fred (Chris Eigeman) a lieutenant with the Sixth Fleet.

In many ways, they represent extensions of the men in “Metropolitan”: Ted is given to odd theories that fail the test of reality.   And recalling Metropolitan’s sharp-tongued Nick, Fred tends to spin extravagantly false yarns, hoping their audacity alone will convince others.

Stillman followed up “Barcelona” with “The Last Day of Disco,” the last film in his trilogy that began with “Metropolitan” (still the best) in 1990.