September 25, 1949– Pedro Almodóvar is one of cinema’s considerably celebrated contemporary filmmakers. He has Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film & Best Original Screenplay for the comedy All About My Mother (1999) & Talk To Her (2002), 5 BAFTA Awards, 6 European Film Awards, 2 Golden Globes, & 6 Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscar).
“It costs a lot to be authentic. & one can’t be stingy with these things because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.”
I am a very big fan of the films of Almodóvar, but I came late to his career & late in appreciating his films & picking up on how exciting & original his work as a director & screenwriter could be. My first Almodóvar film was Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988). I have now seen them all. I was won over by his creative use of the conventions of melodrama & elements of pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humor, nutty colors & over the top décor. Desire, passion, family & personal identity are among Almodóvar’s most prevalent themes. My favorite Almodóvar films, so far, are Talk To Her & Bad Education (2004). With his very specific sensibilities, Almodóvar is the very definition of auteur.
At the Oscar telecast in 2003, he used his winner’s speech to protest the war in Iraq, dedicating his Best Screenplay award for Talk To Her:
“To those who are raising their voices in favor of peace, human rights, democracy & international legality.”
Almodóvar remains committed to portraying & celebrating gay relationships in all their complexity. Defined by their sexual orientation yet not restrained by it, his gay characters are more passionate & complicated than the Hollywood stereotypes of hysterical sidekick, sensitive understanding best friend, or flamboyant hairdresser. His last film, I’m So Excited (2012), focused on a group of gay flight attendants, is a bit of a mess, but it is très gay & suitably demented. It is fun to watch a screwball comedy set on a transatlantic jet, with mile-high blow jobs & dancing flight attendants lip-synching to the Pointer Sisters, & cameos by Almodóvar regulars Antonio Banderas & Penélope Cruz.
“I tried to think about these 2 issues very freely. With sex, I think I can manage with that. With death, this is a more difficult theme for me. I’m not a believer, even though I’m baptized. I don’t practice. I don’t believe in God, so I feel very alone facing death. What I discovered is that the only way to recognize death is if you are part of life, if you are part of sexual pleasure, if you link it with sexual pleasure.”
He is working on the finishing touches on his newest film Silencio, a hard-hitting drama & a return to his self-described “cinema of women”.
Almodóvar is a champion of the mistreated & marginalized. It’s a role he excels in, although he is wary of being typecast because of his sexuality. Almodóvar:
“No one talks about the heterosexual President of the United States, so why should they call me a gay director?”
By pushing boundaries & ripping apart clichés, Almodóvar has brought real clout to Gay Rights causes. Much loved in his own country, his films have helped Spain become a more tolerant & liberal nation after decades of repression & fascism.
“Cinema can fill in the empty spaces of your life & your loneliness.”