Entries tagged with “Pedro Almodovar”.


Watching any film by  is an enriching experience, an experience that teaches the viewers some new things about cinema and some new things about life. Live Flesh (“Carne tremula” in Spanish) is not exception. It is a film about passion and desire, it is a melodrama that makes more sense than life itself, it presents five characters whom we get to know by the end of the film better than our own family.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118819

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118819

 

The story has one prologue, one first chapter taking place twenty years later, more chapters in the contemporaneity (meaning 1997) and a prologue a few months later. A young woman (only appearance in this movie as a live person by ) gives birth, it’s the sleepy Madrid at the end of the Franco era, still a policy state, still hard to catch a taxi even if the streets at night are empty, so the birth takes place in a semi-hijacked bus. Twenty years later in bustling democratic Madrid two cops are called to a place where a young 20 years old pizza delivery boy (yes, that boy) has an altercation with a beautiful young prostitute. Shots are being fired, and one of the policemen is hurt and becomes crippled, not before drawing the attention of the young woman. A few years later the boy gets out of jail and plans to revenge the policeman who stole his youth. His revenge involves not only the woman but also the wife of the other cop. We are in full Almodovar melodrama, everybody is in love or makes sex with everybody else, it’s not a romantic triangle but a love and passion pentagon. All funny and sexy, violent and endearing

 

(video source Vhs Archives)

 

The songs of Chavela Valdez inspired part of the story and the approach of . As in many other of his films he makes no moral judgment about the actions of his characters, but we feel that he cares about them all, and would like to make us care too. Although it’s a mix of comedy and melodrama  ‘Live Flesh‘ never goes where we expect, because the director and story teller does not run away from mixing the beautiful and tend with the ugly and cruel aspects of life. performs here in one of the best roles of his early career, and the rest of the team including , , and define each their characters, each of them with his or her own passion and aspiration to love. Although it is hazard that seems to trigger many of the events, the ending provides a fulfilling sensation. The divinity (I mean, of course, the film director) takes care of everything.

 

Born in Costa Rica and having lived most of her life in Mexico, singer Chavela Vargas was a pioneer on many respects. Born in 1919, she became famous in the 1950s but her career was interrupted and she was forgotten two decades later to the point that many people believed her to be dead. Her comeback around the age of 70 was one of the most remarkable in the history of music, so was her presence in the public awareness, both for her music and for attitude. The film Chavela co-directed by  and with the participation of is part of a spectacular comeback of an artist whose life is still surrounded by mysteries six years after her death.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6217664

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6217664

 

Chavela Vargas was a very non-conventional woman and artist who built her career and lived much of her life in a conservative country. She sang the music of the Mexican cowboys (‘rancheras’) and dressed unconventionally. It was only very late in her life and career that she could go public as a lesbian, but her sexual orientation as well as the alcohol addiction were the principal causes of her fall of the grace of the public at the peak of her career, despite her success and popularity. Audiences simply believed that she is no longer alive, but to everybody’s surprise (including probably her own) she had the courage and power to make one of the most sensational comebacks in the history of music, enjoying again success, and becoming an international celebrity. She was older than 80 years when she made her debut in places like Carnegie Hall or Olympia, and her music was a source of inspiration for several films of .

 

(video source Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films)

 

The documentary spends quite little time dealing with her early career, focusing or her fall and comeback. It is based mostly on her own interviews and on testimonies from her friends and colleagues. There is a lot of material about her private life, less about her music. As in many musical documentaries music presented on screen (with very appropriate English translation of the lyrics) speaks best about her art, but for me, knowing close to nothing about Mexican or Latin American music of the 20th century, I found that there is too little material or none about her musical innovations and why she was different and better than most of the other musicians of her generation. It’s more a documentary about an exceptional life than about an exceptional musician.

I loved ‘Julieta‘. Pedro Almodovar’s 2016 production is one of those films that captivates the viewers during the whole duration of the screening because of the mastering of story telling and by using human emotions. Other directors may do the same thing by making recourse to thrills or horror or intellectual curiosity but it’s hard to keep the attention alive for the whole duration of a long feature film. It’s not the case here – as a viewer in a cinema hall I lived every moment of this story together with its (mostly female) heroes, and I keep thinking and caring about the characters hours after the screening finished. I believe that the conditions are met for the first 10 out of 10 grade on my IMDB scale in years.

 

www.imdb.com/title/tt4326444/

www.imdb.com/title/tt4326444/

 

Many of the previous films of Almodovar are about love and loss, about communication with and without words, about death and passion and the fragile border between them. What seems to be different in ‘Julieta’ is the more tender approach and also a message that seems to be more assertive that in many other movies of the Spanish maestro – there are dangers in being lonely and in not being capable to communicate with those you care about.

The social landscape where the film takes place is the same Spain in evolution from the democratic awakening of the late 70s and early 80s with its breaking of tradition and liberation of passions until the today with its cold and antiseptic kind of connections in the bourgeois or intellectual circles. The family cell is the one that seems to perpetuate not necessarily the traditions but also the cheating and domestic crises in a repetition that one can accept or revolt with all the risks taken. Julieta’s profession – a teacher of Greek and mythology, and a good one – puts her in the position to connect between the day to day banality of sentiments and the greater forces of destiny, but her problem resides mainly in the lack of communication with her daughter. Are the walls between generations unavoidable? Is it us who build these walls or is it just destiny that rises them in each generation? Can anything but time turn these walls down?

As in any great movies there are several levels of story. There is a story of relationship between mother and daughter, and of coming of age. There are threads about family relations that perpetuate for generations, about men who cheat, women who try to balance marriage, mothering, and their own realization, young maids who steal husbands, old maids who talk too much, social differences that can only be hidden but not erased. Death seems to be around the corner at many moments, so is physical incapacity and the pain of coping with the decay of the dear ones – these are some of the recurring themes in the movies of the Spanish master.

 

(video source patheuk)

 

As in many of Almodovar’s films its the women characters who share most of the load (although this film also features one sensitive man as a key supporting character). The two actresses that play Julieta at the two stages of her life – as a young woman, as her elder self are both superb in taking turns to tell the story of a woman who loves and fears, loses all and searches back to find her compass in life. The way the story is written we learn about many of the details and discover some of the hidden threads together with the character. This helps us feel and resonate with her. The elegant casting and direction help us understand that while guilt may pass in between generations, there is always hope, and reconciliation is possible sometimes when not too many questions are asked. Beautifully filmed, deeply moving, superbly acted – what else can we ask?

 

‘Relatos salvajes’ (or ‘Wild Tales’ – the title under which the movie was distributed in the English-speaking space) was selected as one of the five candidates for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year of the Academy in 2015. It did not win, but the very fact that it made it to the prestigious Final Five ensured broader success and world-wide distribution. Some may say that the film was conceived with an eye to the Oscars and festivals circuit, written in a manner that takes much from Almodovar, adds a touch of Tarantino and includes just the needed elements of local color and the gallery of fine actors to allow it to win almost all possible awards in Argentina. Almodovar actually co-produced the film, and his influence is hard to contest (I do not know how much he was involved in the making though). Yet, the wild tales brought to screen by director Damián Szifrón in this film have a quality of their own, a specific grin superposed upon the human approach and the social engagement that characterizes the best South-American films, whatever genre they belong to.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3011894/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3011894/

 

‘Wild Tales’ is a collection of stories, and if I need to define what is common among them is the fact that in all of them more or less ordinary people face day-to-day challenges that they are unable to deal with and as a result they turn into escalating spirals of conflict and violence, all managed with a good dose of black humor. The script and the director are merciless with their heroes and the stories do not end until the characters are brought to or beyond the verge of insanity. For none of them (those who survive) life will not be at the end the same as at the beginning. As viewers we can easily identify with the driver harassed by a hooligan with a truck on a deserted road, with the engineer who is late at his daughter’s birthday because of an unjust parking ticket, or with the bride who discovers at the wedding party that her fresh husband not only cheated on her, but also invited ‘that woman’ at the wedding. We can understand why they go crazy and why they end by doing the most unreasonable acts. Most important at all ,we can laugh about these.

 

(video source TrailerHD)

 

The humor, the empathetic view and the social touch are the arguments that make out of the Argentinian director’s collection of stories much more that a pastiche of Almodovar’s movies. Acting is very good and each one of the characters adds its own piece to a puzzle of contemporary Argentina, a country that I know too little about. ‘Wild Tales’ are entertaining and worth to look for, and director Damián Szifrón is a name to follow.

 

While some of my friends watched (and were delighted by) the latest movie of Almodovar the cinematheque in my village screened his second movie, made almost 30 years ago – ‘Labyrinth of Passion‘. A couple of months ago I had seen ‘Do You Remember Dolly Bell?’ (made one year earlier than the film of the Spaniard) the first film of Kusturica, now this one, and beyond the similarities of the game of identifying in early works the spark of genius of the later great movies there is also an abyssal difference between the two. While Kustirica’s movie show the restrains of the censorship his work was subjected to in the still-Communist Yugoslavia, Almodovar’s film shouts FREEDOM.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084228/

 

Indeed, Laberinto de pasiones is a film that could have been only in 1982 and in Spain. The young director seems to be drunken by the light and colors of a world that just woke up after several decades of dictatorship. His characters live in a Madrid that has become the heaven of all kinds of experiments – in music, in love, in the way people live. There is absolutely nothing that reminds the films of Carlos Saura or Bunuel, the film is made by a young director whose career started with the liberation of Spain, and who celebrates his freedom in making movies and experiments with characters and a social medium on the fringe.

 

(video source kevinwasi)

 

Did I already say that watching this film is fun? Just saying that one of the characters is the son of the Shah of (T)Iran who happens to be gay but then is ‘cured’ by a nymphomaniac named Sexilia – you already got a feeling of the material Almodovar plays with. He also crosses the line to play a gay punk singer in travesty (see above) in one of the several delicacies of the film. Sure, there is a lot of trash around, and not all of it is that original, but then you have Banderas playing a gay terrorist who falls for his target before knowing whom he gets in bed with. All the story is told with a kind of detachment that makes you feel the protective smile of the director when looking at his characters and actors.

 

(video source ea285)

 

No, this film is not a masterpiece, and if I had seen it by or close to the time it was made I am not sure whether I would have liked it, or identified the huge director Almodovar will become starting a few films later. If there is anything close in genre it is rather the low cost comedies that by that time I would have seen in Romania (later the boorekas movies in Israel). There is however in this film enough craziness and bluntness to break away from the crowd, and a hidden tear behind the laughs that I am pretty sure that could not have escaped me completely.