Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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Director: Woody Allen; Release date: 6 February

The critic Joe Queenan recently described Woody Allen's career as a "corpse that has been awaiting interment for years".

With each new release, increasing numbers of critics and audiences have come to the same conclusion. Things have got so bad that two of his films in the last decade - Hollywood Ending and Scoop - were not even given a release in British cinemas.

But some people are still eager to see the latest Woody Allen. The French and Spanish markets in particular have enabled him to keep turning a small profit.

So it is no accident that his last four films have all been made in Europe, with European co-funding. The first three were shot in Britain, but with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Allen has opted for a Catalan setting.

A romcom of sorts, it is not a bad film, and it does have its moments of wit and insight. Allen's continued ability to attract A-list actors also pays off as Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz invest far more in their stereotyped roles than the film deserves.

Although shot in Spain, it lacks much feeling for the place and frequently resembles an advert by the tourist board. Barcelona - which, according to the title, is one of the three key elements of the film - functions merely as a scenic backdrop for the adventures of two wealthy American friends, Vicky and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall), who are enjoying a lengthy holiday in the region.

They are introduced to us by the narrator as two opposites, particularly in regard to love. One is ultra-cautious; the other likes to live dangerously. With this theme established, the story then throws Juan (Bardem), a tormented artist who'll make them question who they are and what they want, into their lives. It is schematic and clich├ęd, but amusing enough to warrant a look when it reaches television.

But the big question that hangs over it all is how such a great director has fallen so low, and is now content to churn out mediocre films. One theory suggests that Allen lost his way as the milieu that he had made his own on screen - the liberal New York intelligentsia - disintegrated in real life under the pressures of the neoliberalism that convulsed the city after its bankruptcy in the late 1970s.

Deprived of his specialist subject, and bruised by the scandals surrounding his personal life, Allen lost his mojo and has drifted ever since.