Pedro Almodóvar – Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios AKA Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

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Though the kinky characters and aberrant social behavior common to the works of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar are very evident in his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film is at heart a door-slamming farce in the grand tradition. The tiny apartment of pregnant actress Carmen Maura is the “Grand Central Station” setpiece for this dizzying tale. Distraught over her recent breakup with her lover, Carmen prepares to overdose on sleeping pills, which she blends into a gazpacho so they’ll go down easier. She is diverted from her suicide by her best friend Maria Barranco, a fugitive from justice (her boy friend is a Shi’Ite terrorist) who needs a place to stay. Later, when Carmen’s apartment is empty, her ex-lover’s grown son (Antonio Banderas) comes to the apartment with his fiance (Rossy de Palma) in answer to Carmen’s “room to let” newspaper ad. The wife inadvertently ingests Carmen’s “pill sauce,” and as she blissfully snoozes, the husband inaugurates an affair with Carmen’s friend Barranco. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Átame! AKA Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)

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Just released from residential psychiatry, where he became an all-round handyman, gentle orphan Ricky pursues his sole pathological obsession. Penniless, hence without a chance to court her, he kidnaps porn actress Marina from the set of crippled director Maximo’s last movie. At first she hates her abductor. Once she realizes he risks and bares everything for her, she gets feeling for him to. But won’t she still escape and return to her family and career? Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Kika (1993)

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Harshly treated by the critics on release, of Pedro Almodovar’s work, Kika is perhaps the one that most benefits from re-viewing and re-assessment.

The story of Kika (an astonishing Veronica Forque), a Madrid makeup artist whose relationship with Ramon (Alex Cassanovas) leads to criminal schemes involving Kika’s maid Juana (Rossy DePalma), Jauan’s amorous, criminal brother Pablo (Santiago Lajusticia) and Ramon’s youth-obsessed father Nicholas (Peter Coyote). Overseeing it all is the muckraking, reality tabloid television show presided over by the formidable Andrea Scarface (a uniquely attired Victoria Abril).

Attracting controversy because of the scene in which Almodovar depicts Kika’s rape at the hands of Pablo with humorous detachment, the scene has since come to be more popularly viewed as further evidence of the director’s tribute to the power of women. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Volver (2006)

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There is no director alive more connected to the hearts, minds and mysteries of women than Spain’s Pedro Almodovar. With a string of masterworks stretching from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown to All About My Mother and Talk to Her, Almodovar is a filmmaker worth following anywhere. In Volver (“return”), a movie that leaps off the screen to take its place in your dreams, the writer-director tells a ghost story that manages to include lust, incest, rape and murder. You’ll laugh, too — wildly, helplessly — because to Almodovar, laughter is life. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Julieta (2016)

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Julieta (Emma Suarez) is a middle-aged woman living in Madrid with her boyfriend Lorenzo. Both are going to move to Portugal when she casually runs into Bea, former best friend of her daughter Antia, who reveals that this one is living in Switzerland married and with three children. With the heart broken after 12 years of total absence of her daughter, Julieta cancels the journey to Portugal and she moves to her former building, in the hope that Antia someday communicates with her sending a letter. Alone with her thoughts, Julieta starts to write her memories to confront the pain of the events happened when she was a teenager (Adriana Ugarte) and met Xoan, a Galician fisherman. Falling in love with him, Julieta divides her time between the family, the job and the education of Antia until a fatal accident changes their lives. Slowly decaying in a depression, Julieta is helped by Antia and Bea, but one day Antia goes missing suddenly after a vacation with no clues about where to find … Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Carne trémula AKA Live Flesh (1997)

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Curious, seeing this after the smash hits of “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” and “Hable con Ella”, because this movie sort of prepared the viewers to what was coming. Grabbing a solid and original story, Pedro Almodovar creates a movie that revolves around a strange set of characters, and on the process gives an excellent essay on the effect time has on people’s lives. All the actors are top notch, specially the commanding Javier Bardem, who would later become an Oscar nominee with “Before Night Falls”. Great music, cinematography and direction give this movie an even more satisfying look, and make this a well-achieved movie that ends up being the first part of an unofficial trilogy of Almodovar’s best works. Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – La mala educación AKA Bad Education (2004)

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The wag who first suggested running the trailer for Bad Education before screenings of The Passion of the Christ in southern France deserves a rosette for provocation beyond the call of duty. But while the region’s priests have responded with predictable outrage, they should have taken a closer look at the film itself. To the character of the paedophile Father Manolo, Pedro Almodóvar extends the same compassion and pity with which he regarded the various sex offenders in Matador (1986), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989) and Talk to Her (2002). Almodóvar has the most democratic sensibility in cinema since Andy Warhol. Whatever passes before his camera is met with curiosity or understanding. Continue reading