Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the lines of Volver or All About My Mother. Its punchy emotional rhythms are deeply involving, while the film's visual style creates an atmosphere of mystery and suspense as a woman deals with parenthood, love and death over two decades.
Julieta (Emma Suarez) is a high-powered middle-aged woman in Madrid who has just agreed to move with her writer boyfriend Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) to Portugal. But a series of events changes her mind, and she instead drops out of her life, consumed with thoughts about her daughter Antia (Bianca Peres), who wants nothing to do with her. As she flashes back to life as a young woman (now Adriana Ugarte), she relives her romance with the rugged fisherman Xoan (Daniel Grao) and his close friend Ava (Inma Cuesta). And thinking about all of these people who have come and gone from her life clarifies her resolve.
The film is based on three Alice Munro stories, which is what gives it such a swirling, layered quality as the characters spiral around each other. Almodovar keeps the tone intimate and openly emotional, adding vivid visual flourishes in clever camerawork and striking splashes of primary colours (mainly reds and blues). Thankfully, this isn't a downbeat movie; it's a celebration of how various aspects of love touch our life. The focus is on the seasons of Julieta's face, and both Suarez and Ugarte are transparent in the role, seamlessly merging their performances to create a woman who understands that, even with people around you, you're essentially alone in life. Meanwhile, all of the supporting actors create remarkable inner lives for their characters that make them unusually vivid.
Continue reading: Julieta Review
From Argentina, this Oscar-nominated collection of six short, sharp stories leaves us gasping for breath due to both riotous black comedy and deeply unnerving plot twists. Each segment is about people who are pushed beyond the tipping point, finding revenge in an unexpected way that feels both deeply horrifying and disturbingly satisfying. And even though it sometimes veers wildly close to being over-the-top, the film is written, directed and played with such brutal honesty that it can't help but rattle us to the core.
The prologue is titled "Pasternak", set on an airplane on which passengers are surprised to find out that they all have a connection to Gabriel Pasternak. But what does he have in store for them all? Next is "The Rats", set in a roadside diner where waitress Moza (Julieta Zylberberg) is unnerved to serve a loan shark (Cesar Bordon) who destroyed her family. The chef (Rita Cortese) thinks she should poison his food. "The Strongest" follows Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a wealthy man driving his shiny car down a highway when he comes up to Mario (Walter Donado) hogging the road with his rattling clunker. Passing him with a volley of obscenities, Diego is then horrified when he has a flat tyre and knows who's coming down the road behind him.
The fourth clip is "Little Bomb", about demolition expert Simon (Ricardo Darin), who engages the city's bureaucrats in a quickly escalating war when his car is erroneously towed for parking illegally. "The Proposal" is the most cerebral segment, centring on a wealthy man (Oscar Martinez) trying to clear his teen son (Alan Daicz), who has just run down a pregnant woman in the street. The idea is to find a scapegoat. And in "Until Death Parts Us", a bride (Erica Rivas) discovers in the middle of their marriage reception that her new husband (Diego Gentile) has been cheating on her. Her reaction is neither calm nor measured.
Continue reading: Wild Tales Review
Fans of more recent Almodovar films like The Skin I Live In or Volver should be warned about this one, because it harks back to his much cheesier 1980s films with its broad comedy, lurid production values and camp characters. But even if it looks fluffy and silly, there are some serious things going on under the surface, as Almodovar undermines stereotypes and plays with sexuality issues. Although this means that most of the humour is aimed at a gay audience.
It all takes place on a flight from Spain to Mexico, but shortly after take-off the pilot (de la Torre) announces that a mechanical fault means they need to make an emergency landing. Then the passenger Bruna (Duenas) reveals that she's a virginal psychic who sees death ahead, and everyone starts to panic. The flight crew (Camara, Areces and Arevalo) try to distract the passengers from impending doom by performing a choreographed number to the Pointer Sisters' eponymous hit. And when that doesn't work, they lace everyone's drinks with mescaline.
Each person in the first class cabin (economy is sound asleep) has his or her own crisis, including a notorious dominatrix (Roth), a businessman (Torrijo) on a quest, a shady hitman (Yazpik), a just-married groom (Silvestre) who prefers his wife to be asleep, and a man (Toledo) running from his suicidal girlfriend (Vega). And the pilots and flight attendants are also romantically entangled. All of this swirls together like a nutty 1970s Mexican soap, complete with flimsy-looking sets and a sparky mariachi score.
Continue reading: I'm So Excited! [Los Amantes Pasajeros] Review
Agustin Almodovar, Antonio Banderas, Pedro Almodovar and Grauman's Chinese Theatre - Agustin Almodovar, Tom Bernard, Antonio Banderas, Pedro Almodovar and Michael Barker Hollywood, California - AFI Fest 2011 Premiere of Law Of Desire/ An Evening with Pedro Almodovar Tribute held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre Monday 7th November 2011
Robert (Banderas) is a skin-transplant specialist who goes against bioethics rules to experiment on a new kind of skin for Vera (Anaya), a young woman he keeps trapped in his home and cares for with the help of his childhood nanny Marilia (Paredes). But everyone has a secret, and Robert's relates to a young man (Cornet) he kidnapped six years earlier following an incident that drove his teen daughter (Suarez) to suicide. Actually, all of this started much earlier when Robert's wife was horribly burned in a car accident.
Continue reading: The Skin I Live In Review
When Veronica (Onetto), a respected wife and mother, hits something with her car, she starts to become disconnected from the bustling, well-heeled European society she lives in, haunted by the indigenous people living around the edges of her life. This is clearly caused by guilt, but is that due to her affair with an in-law (Genoud) or the fact that she may have killed someone. As her mental confusion grows, her husband (Bordon) and lover seem to close ranks around her to make everything right again.
Continue reading: The Headless Woman [La Mujer Sin Cabeza] Review
Almodóvar's narrative is a marvel of temporal-shifting beauty, seamlessly moving back and forth between the film's "present" of 1988, the immediate past, and a short story written by Angel (Gael García Bernal) which segues among 1988, 1977, and the 1960s while featuring its own story-within-a-story. While such convoluted chronological fracturing is initially confusing, the ultimate effect of the director's time-hopping plot construction - especially considering that Bernal tackles multiple, intimately related roles - is that one quickly finds the boundaries between reality and fiction melting away. Life and art symbiotically imitate each other in Almodóvar's colorful, hot-blooded world, with no discussion of the one complete without mention of the other. And with the story of Angel and Enrique, boyhood friends at Catholic school who are reunited years later and become involved in a semi-autobiographical movie about their youth, the relationship between fiction and reality becomes so blurred that, by film's end, there's no way to distinguish between the two.
Continue reading: Bad Education Review
Films like Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason strike me as cinematic equivalents to crack pipe hits for girls. They are down and dirty, pass the goods, quick fixes. Most chick flicks aren't even romantic, unless your idea of romance is watching two people kiss, fight, and babble like infants. They hardly qualify as comedies, either; most are middling, sentimental and absurd. (Before the hate mail pours in, "guy" flicks are just as mindless: monotonous action, deus ex machina, T&A, and unremitting explosions. Neither is the victor in a contest for taste.) Good comedic romances, true romantic comedies, are very hard to come by. The Flower of My Secret is one of those rare romantic comedies that is both very romantic and quite funny.
Continue reading: The Flower Of My Secret Review
Indeed, Manuela is always moving. With the untimely death of her son, Estoban, she moves to Barcelona to embark upon a search for Estoban's father. In Barcelona, she is constantly moving from one place to another, doing something or another for someone. Save a transsexual prostitute (Antonio San Juan) here, help a pregnant nun (Penelope Cruz) there. Help smooth out the turbulent lesbian relationship between two actresses (Marisa Paredes and Candela Pena) here, usher an older woman (Rosa Maria Sarda) into a great understanding of life there. She never stops.
Continue reading: All About My Mother Review
This central focus, the platonically affectionate friendship of two men, is admirably rare to begin with. Sure, men are pals in domestic-made features, but they rarely hug or discuss emotional dysfunction because American society is so homophobic. Audiences and critics alike are attuned to the slightest hint that a film might be presenting a gay character or subplot so that it can be easy to dismiss even the most intelligent works of fiction as simply "queer" without giving it the further attention to human issues it deserves. One would think that writer/director Almodóvar would lean more towards gay/lesbian issues, being a homosexual, but he thankfully seems bent on capturing the essence of people, in all their parts, and not just whom they choose to sleep with. His consistently honest stance, both in interviews and film projects, fuels his ability to intelligently articulate heart-wrenching and heartwarming experiences with all of his creations, regardless of sexual orientation.
Continue reading: Talk To Her Review
Continue reading: Live Flesh Review
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