Tag Archives: Pedro Almodóvar

Thinking Aloud About Film: Pedro Almodóvar 2: Labyrinth of Passion

We discuss Almodóvar’s second feature, Labyrinth of Passion, where Almodóvar himself appears both as director and rock star in minor roles. We talk about its convoluted plot, its verbal and visual campyness, its anti-authoritarian stance and its status as a youth film. We note how even in his second film, there are evident connections with his first film (not least in the recurring cast) and plot strands that will re-appear subsequently (the airport scene in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). We talk about it (briefly) as a document of its time, particularly in relation to the Nueva Movida Madrileña. The plot is straight out of Hello magazine; the idea that sex, drugs and art are a fun path without pitfalls to liberation is straight out of underground comics. Richard Lester’s cinema is a clear influence. Fanny McNamara steals the show. We could have talked for a lot longer.

José has written on the film previously here:

 

A  trailer for the film can be seen here:

 

 

The Janet Maslin review Richard speaks of may be accessed here;

José Arroyo and Richard Layne.

 

Carlos Berlanga in Broken Embraces

A flyer for a 1982 exhibition of Carlos Berlanga drawings can be glimpsed in Broken Embraces. In 1982 Berlanga also appears in Labyrinth of Passion…and had a big hit with this. A fleeting but lovely commemoration as Berlanga was dead long before Embraces.

José Arroyo

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 339 – Parallel Mothers

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

José gives Mike a history lesson on the Spanish Civil War, the scars it left on Spanish culture and society, and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s own relationship to it and the dictatorship to which it led, under which he grew up and which fell in the few years prior to his ascent to prominence. His new film, Parallel Mothers, inspires this review of the past, embroiled as it is in confronting Spain’s modern history and, José argues, adapting elements of it to the melodrama of motherhood that forms its primary plot – a plot which is used to explore questions of lies, psychic violence, and instrumentality that are part of the film’s critique of Spain’s Pact of Forgetting, its political and cultural agreement to avoid confronting the legacy of the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, which the itch to scratch historical memory is seen to disturb.

It’s a film with serious flaws, and a disappointment given Almodóvar’s estimable body of work, especially the masterpiece that was his most recent film, Pain and Glory, but a film that creates this kind of discourse is to be valued. It’s pat, one-dimensional, and with a leadenness of tone that isn’t typical of Almodóvar, whose sense of humour is usually so reliable – but still worth seeing.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

High Heels gifs

I’ve tried making gifs of Victoria Abril, and can’t quite, at least successful ones. She’s such a transparent and emotive actress that every move in her face counts, speeding her up diminishes what she has to offer, and she can’t be camped up, or at least I can’t, which in a paradoxical way is a measure of her greatness. The gif, rather than bringing something else out, diminishes what she herself creates. A thought.

When Javier was hubba hubba (in a small bit for High Heels, as Victoria Abril announces she’s killed her husband)

When a gif doesn’t quite work as well as the original

The rhymes in the sound being just as important as the repetition in image, if not more so.

José Arroyo

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 310 – The Human Voice

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Freely based, as the closing credits tell us, on Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play of the same name, The Human Voice sees Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar working in the English language for the first time. The play has long been on Almodóvar’s mind, inspiring, significantly, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, among other works of his, and this short film joins the pantheon of adaptations of the play, which has seen its single character, a woman speaking on the phone to an unseen, unheard lover, played by such stars as Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and Anna Magnani.

Here, Tilda Swinton plays that role, bringing to it a sense of reserve that didn’t quite make sense to José until the final sequence and the resolution to the story – perhaps an effect of having seen the play adapted so many times and not having seen the character played this way before. Conversely, Mike feels he instinctively understands the character, remarking upon her change from being out of place, both geographically and emotionally, to her assumption of control of her world and destiny. José, who identifies with Almodóvar’s work like nobody else’s, picks up on the themes, motifs, visual designs, settings and interests that tie The Human Voice to the rest of his oeuvre, and finds where this short fits in and where it doesn’t. Specifically, he argues that Almodóvar’s control of language and knowledge of how people speak is typically overlooked in favour of his visuals, but here becomes obvious precisely because of the decision to use English rather than Spanish, which results in less poetry and nothing memorable throughout the entire monologue.

That flaw is evident but minor in the scheme of the entire film, which is an elegantly made and interesting study both of Swinton’s character and of Almodóvar’s own style and lifelong interests. The Human Voice is on Mubi, and well worth your time.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.