Seriocomic Look at Americans Abroad in Spain

Article excerpt

"BARCELONA" Rating: PG-13. Running time: 1:41.

`BARCELONA," Whit Stillman's wry and engaging new movie, could be subtitled "Innocents Abroad." The two main characters, preppy young Americans overseas in their first jobs, seem baffled by giddy post-Franco Barcelona in general and two aspects of the sophisticated city in particular: the obsessive anti-Americanism of its young intellectuals and the matter-of-fact sexuality of its young women.

Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) is a fidgety sales executive for a Chicago-based manufacturing firm and seems in a constant state of paranoia about what's going on in the home office and how it will affect him. Fred, his rather obnoxious Navy lieutenant cousin (Chris Eigeman), shows up in his dress uniform, not a popular outfit in these waning days of the Cold War. (The time frame appears to be about 10 years ago.) But some young Spaniards assume he is in costume, and drag the cousins along to a wild masquerade party.

Both young men become involved with Barcelona women who are, at least on the surface, considerably more sophisticated than they. They also meet a group of cafe radicals who have confused but strongly held theories about American conspiracies abroad that center on an imperialist organization called the "AFL-CIA."

For a while, the movie trips along as a light, ironic comedy. Then it turns more serious as the deep-seated political fury that underlies the Yankee-bashing rhetoric comes to the fore. But it never loses its sense of humor. …