Continuing our feature, Dave looks at Spanish cinema giant, Pedo Almodovar…
Pedro Almodóvar Caballero (Born 1949) is currently the most widely recognized and successful Spanish filmmaker. Making his directorial debut in 1980, Almodóvar’s career has since spanned three successful decades. The reason for the success of his films is pretty clear. They are entertaining, which Almodóvar claims is the purpose of cinema. Almodóvar’s passion and talent for filmmaking shows in every single film, and with no two of his pictures being the same, every time he shows the world why he deserves to be so highly regarded.
For me, Almodóvar is so successful because of his decision to show the world what Spain was capable of out from underneath the shadow of Franco. Almodóvar went no holds barred on his approach to showing the explosion of hedonism and experimentation that came with the dizzy freedom experienced after Franco’s death. However, his films are so well written and his ability to weave a story so perfectly together is perhaps why he has continued his meteoric rise in world cinema. He is able to explore so many different themes, and even return to the same ones time after time, and every one is as rich and compelling as the last.
The film that brought Almodóvar into the world spotlight is his 1988 Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown). It is one of the staples of Almodóvar’s favourite theme, female friendship, solidarity and the strength of the female character. Almodóvar himself says that he prefers working with women, and this is something he does consistently through his filmography. Mujeres tells the story of 48 hours in the life of Pepa, recently dumped by her fellow actor boyfriend, and depressed to the point of overdosing on sleeping pills. As she searches for him, she discovers some of his secrets and uncovers her true feelings. The film mixes melodrama with rapid witty dialogue and fast paced action to create something truly special. Harking back to the Hollywood comedies of the 1950s this piece of work gathered a huge amount of positive reviews, including an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and provided the next step for Almodóvar to grow as a director, this time in the international spotlight.
One of Almodóvar’s more recent films, 2006’s Volver, also explores the roles of women in society. In this case – three generations of women, and what they do when faced with adversity. Starring his current muse, Penélope Cruz and his former muse, Carmen Maura, Volver introduces themes such as family, sexual abuse, loneliness and death and mixes them in with melodrama, tragedy and even farce. This film is a testament to the female character, and female resilience in a film where men are merely disposable. Almodóvar himself says that the movie talks about women’s ability to survive and to fight fiercely for what they believe in, much in the same way that his first feature film Pepi, Luci, Bom did. What this shows is that Almodóvar is the same filmmaker he always was, and he is still just as talented and capable as he was 30 years ago.
Unfazed by critics, Almodóvar keeps true to his passion for filmmaking and his representation of Spain in every film he makes. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the way the films are put together and the way stories are told will be more than enough to keep you interested, and hopefully as the man himself would say, “entertained”.