A portrait of Almodóvar

On the occasion of the release of JULIETA, it seemed to us important to dwell on Pedro Almodóvar himself.

It is, in general, rather supporters of the empathy for an author through the complete understanding of its films. This allows not only to define the grounds of his work, but it also gives a particular light to each of its achievements, when re-contextualized. Thus, it was launched in the viewing of the work ofAlmodóvar, a filmmaker than in the past, we catégorisions rather summarily as “cador of the gay cinema and provoc, by a filmmaker of women,”… Good.

BUT, very quickly, one realized that this author was much more than this reductive label.

As was said by Stone in his paper on the topic, gender identity is a theme rarely treated with natural at the cinema, because too often erected as an ensign, or marginalized. But in Almodóvar, whether one is heterosexual, plurisexuel, transsexuals, transvestite, bisexual, homosexual, or even sexual predators… The sexuality of a character is often a quite functional account that allows you to open other horizons, emotional, hitherto relatively unseen; beyond the classical ♂ + ♀ Almodóvar explores the ♂ + ♂, ♂ + ♀ + ♂, ♀♂ + ♂ and other.

Even more interesting, Almodóvar inserts naturally this question of identity as a catalyst story of his intrigues, in the same way that the emotions, or the actions of its characters. Knowing that her genres of choice are the thriller, the thriller and melodrama, it adds a component of exciting to the decoding of the mystery inherent in his cinema. Blend pure entertainment and a subject of society allowed, and to the author, to move from the status of author confidential with popular author.

Mine of nothing, running as well, Almodóvar argues for the evolution of mentalities trivializes the various facets of sexuality, which is clearly seen in many films of his work, from Matador. A strong political gesture in a context (late 80’s) or AIDS, and the consideration of collective homosexuality as a deviance, psychological, were a taboo subject and that is conducive to social exclusion. The filmmaker was the voice of an entire community, precisely because his film is not reflected on this issue of sexual identity in terms of community, but rather, without vulgarity or judgment or marginalization, in terms of beings, the emotional, and the characters of the movie.

We like to think that our openness on the subject is intimately related to his work.

Since the sexual relationship is less characterized, derives from a particular definition of the relationship in the cinema of Almodóvar. And by extension, a definition of the Men and Women of its own.

First of all, They. In Almodóvar, whether they are mothers, women, sisters, girls, independent, bossy, adulescentes, névrosées… The Women are always defined by their relationships to men. A report that can take several forms: emotional, physical, vocational, artistic or other; it is this relation to men which is the source of secrets more or less traumatic, the amount of which determines the present. To immerse ourselves in the complexity of these women, Almodóvar filmed their beauty, their sensuality, their talkativeness, their glances, smiles & gestures, their intelligence, their sensitivity, their emotional fluctuations. It is this attention and patience vis-à-vis details which gave the author his reputation as a filmmaker of women.

Yet paradoxically, the filmmaker has the same love for Men… The difference being that it keeps them generally in the out-of-field, thus giving them a special aura, very spooky. By his camera and his writing, Almodóvar moves of this manhood, and of this propensity to domination (emotional, physical, intellectual) is supposed to characterize, to better make the catalysts of the drama, obscure objects of desire.

If the majority of the film is so focused on the multiple facets of the female figure, his films are more “masculine” take on a dimension quite different. La Mala Educacion, The Law of Desire, Talk to Her or … La Piel Habito thatare also sensitive, but more political and personal, more raw and sensual, most disturbing and perverse – while telling much more strong love stories.

As to the relations between the characters, whether love, friendship or sex… the DESIRE (or its absence) is what governs them.

Sometimes, Almodóvar , in fact, the subject of the movie (Law of Desire, Matador, Flesh and bone, the film’s most CALIENTE of the film-maker), sometimes it keeps it out-of-field, making its impact all the more powerful (The Flower of my Secret). Sometimes, the characters use it as a weapon or a defense to manipulate the other. Or, it may simply be the normal component of a simple love and sincere. In any case, it determines very often the plot, and the characters ‘ actions.

This leads logically to another stroke of genius ofAlmodóvar, his writing. From Matador, there is a true evolution of this next to it: Almodóvar research less the reality of a life of Madrid (however very present and fascinating), that the inclusion of a wide dramatic multi-tracks within the genre film.

His films are more or less built the same way : the majority of the characters is doubly defined : by his present – what we know, as well as its secrets – what we need to understand. The present is conditioned by a tragic event chosen by Almodóvar. An accident, a murder, a deceit, a death, a separation, etc

Then, return to the past will redial, index by index, each person’s role, and the importance of the relationships between the characters. Some indices, such as the traumas of childhood, are recurrent in films in films. Other such as love or friendship, are extremely versatile… But most often, these clues are details to multiple interpretations. A picture torn, a new haircut, a look of fleeing, a note harmless (which is not, of course), an object in the wrong place… Everything is important. Actors as secondary characters are ALL involved in the construction of a mystery story brought to a logical resolution, but often emotional and sometimes even psychological. Smooth, or facilities or shortcuts.

The scenario is as well, battery in the time interval between the unspeakable and the certain… that may tend to a show and has a conclusion particularly expeditious in his films. In Almodóvar, The path is much more important than the destination.

This then, is subject to multiple variations corresponding to as many movies ofAlmodóvar.

A film of the author may be more or less burst temporally, which allows you to work on the length the ideas of determinism (emotional, genetic or social). To this effect, the ellipses are fantastically stimulating in Almodóvar, because they hide secrets and unspoken. Chance and coincidence determine to the contrary, the films take place in “real time”, while maintaining a tangle of tracks narrative.

And then, the kind. The thriller, the melodrama, the comedy. And in these genres, there is often a diving quasi-ethnography in a world of art: cinema, publishing and literary creation, the Matador, dance, etc, Sometimes, the author uses the works which have influenced, as the starting point for his film. This is the case in The Skin I Live in (The Eyes without face) or in All about My Mother (Opening Night). The narrative may contain more or less characters, women (usually), or men. So, more or less of intrigue, sentimental. More or less connection sex between the characters. More or less of tragedy. The most challenging, rest when Almodóvar takes into account the reference that he consciously placed in his filmography, and deconstructs in order to better redefine them.

And then as we said, the story is centered on women. If we could think in a first time to a cinema autobiographical seeking in the life and a certain nostalgia, a definition of the woman (as in Scorsese again), in fact , Almodóvar goes much further. The author has become a kind ofanthropologist of the Woman, and we shared the results of its research through scenarios convoluted, one of whose aims, beyond pure entertainment, is to enable these women to enter into a phase of introspection. This helps put into perspective many grounds, sometimes common (the mother, the wife, the mistress, the importance of family), sometimes more intimate (the relationship of gender, professional career, the supposed role and the role sucked). And even more specific, it enables him to treat of subjects altogether taboo.

In 2016, it has clearly become a routine that his film talks about sexual identity and/or its deviances (incest, pedophilia, rape, etc.). But it would be a shame to forget that the author also knows we speak of things less tape-to-eye, but also quite fascinating. The maternal instinct, the frigidity, the determinism of feeling, the madness faced with the parenting… Examples of topics thatAlmodóvar fully integrates to his narrative as a catalyst of suspense and emotion.

A few actresses-the muses and their ability to ambivalence on many registers, so are the door lyrics obsessions ofAlmodóvar.

The caméléone Carmen Maura played the characters the most varied and surprising ofAlmodóvar; the ambiguous Victoria Abril is the ideal link between thriller and sensual melodrama psychological; the versatile Marisa Paredes, is voluntarily recalling Gena Rowlands (what IS a definition in itself), while the voluptuous Penelope Cruz, by his presence, gives even more importance to the absence of men. Even Rossy de Palma always cast in tiny roles capital, is a signature of the author.

The men are not, of course, not in the rest, even if they are more rare and less stressed. However Antonio Banderas is perhaps the most remarkable of them since coming back often in the first role; a mirror of Victoria Abril in terms of ambiguity, but also because of the sensuality which never allows himself to be tamed. Javier Bardem (and his bestiality delicate), Eusebio Poncela, Gael Garcia Bernalor Javier Camara have also had the opportunity to call our bluff by their sensibilities, their films respective.

The career of many actresses and actors would not be as successful without the characters iconic that they have interpreted for Almodóvar.

A word about the realisation; for Almodóvar, it is mostly a matter of mise en scene – or rather, theatricality.

Like his great idol Cassavetes, Almodo knows how to occupy the space by the presence of its actors. In camera sometimes, but also, and especially, in these places admirably chosen to be conducive to introspection (in a house near the sea, a hospital room, the Scene, a bathroom…)

Sometimes however, as in Matador, Tie me up !, All about my mother or Talk to Her, the achievement is ostentatious, audacious and plural, to better highlight the emotions of the characters. A bullfight tragedy, a shooting, a look of decisive, or even a “rape of love” can be transcended by a daring formal off-topic, but it is particularly enjoyable. The rest of the time, the realization is sober and elegant to leave the place to the entire story and its characters. A criterion rather fluctuating, which has only a relative impact on our perception of the cinema ofAlmodóvar.

All of these things interact in each film, and constitute the famous sensitivity Almodovar-ienna… But there’s THIS movie, that it could be considered as “sum ” of the obsessions of its author: All about my mother.

If realization and scenario are already exceptional, it is on a lot more personal than the film gives decryption keys fascinating of the author. The film is the climax of the reflections on the Woman, issues of identity (sexual or emotional) about Love, about Art, about the legacy and the transmission. It also marks a sharp turn to the emotional in cinema sound, with a consciousness much more of the viewer, but also an involvement more personal, as the author. And then just the fact to build his film on a similar basis to that ofOpening Night, before reclaiming the whole of this material to transcend it, says a lot about the influences and artistic aspirations ofAlmodóvar, but also on the importance of the artistic medium as a catharsis.

All about my mother is not a film easy to understand, since it is based on a lot of things previously treated, but it is in the sum total of these things, without a doubt, the film with the most rich of the author. His masterpiece, Love Streams.

To conclude, we will say that Almodovar is one of those authors to be invaluable in the seventh item

To the extent that it is influenced by huge authors (Sirk, Cassavetes, Capra, protestant redemption church…), the cinema finds its uniqueness in the treatment of very mixed genre and obsessions personal. Women (and men), taboo, desire, psychology, issues of identity, desire, thrillers, drama and melodrama, intrigue, convoluted, and Art, are often good housekeeping in his films, resulting in often unique.

Each film is a bit of an interplay of all these elements, but it is in the association, the most relevant of these reasons that one acknowledges the masterpieces of the author, as a Matador, Talk to Her, The Flower of my secret or of course… All about my mother.

It is, therefore, most of this summary, we can define JULIETA, his latest film !.


Our reviews of the films ofAlmodóvar

Pepi, Luci, Bom and other girls in the neighborhood (Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón, 1980, 1h18)

That is what I have done to deserve this ? (¿ Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto !!, 1984, 1h47)

Matador (1986, 1: 45)

The Law of desire (La ley del deseo, 1987, 1h44)

Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, 1988, 1: 35:)

Home-me ! (Átame !, 1989, 1h41)

High heels (Tacones lejanos, 1991, 1h53)

The Flower of my secret (La flor de mi secreto, 1995, 1h42)

In the flesh (Carne trémula, 1997, 1h39)

All about my mother (Todo sobre mi madre, 1999, 1: 40)

Talk to her (Hable con ella, 2002, 1h52)

Julieta (2016, 2h02)


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