After the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, there was only one Spaniard who remained a constant voice for freedom, eccentricity and love: Pedro Almodovar. Not only did the director prove to be a visionary artist, but he is also an important figure in the development of Spain as a free and tolerant democracy after Franco’s reign of terror. Now, after years of turning down job opportunities in America, Almodovar is finally making the leap. This year he announced a western film titled Strange way of life with Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as well as his first feature film in English, A Handbook for Housekeepers with Cate Blanchett. For Americans unfamiliar with his goofy genius, here are some of his best, most controversial, and inventive movies.
In one of the most gripping melodramas of the 21st century, Almodovar made us laugh and cry. Flip is set in a small town in La Manche where secrets abound and the dead never rest. It’s a film best left in the cold and let its mysteries wrap you in this Spanish tale of betrayal, maternal affection and trauma. With Penelope Cruz at the helm, the story gains grace and strength, and incredible emotional depth. No other film can claim to have won the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress for all of its leading women. For a story that contains clues of Mildred Pierce with more modern revelations, this is the film to see!
All About My Mother (1999)
all about my mother won Almodovar his first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and forced the world to sympathize with people most would gladly ignore. When Manuela (Cecile Roth), a single mother in Madrid, sees her only son die on his 18th birthday, she decides to return to Barcelona to tell the father of the death of this son he has never heard of. In the 1990s, when homophobia and transphobia reached an all-time high with the advent of the AIDS crisis, Almodovar gave humanity to the LGBTQ community and showed that everyone, no matter what she did or who she is, deserves to be loved. .
Her most recent film nearly won Penélope Cruz the Best Actress Oscar and touched on Spain’s Francoist past like none of her other films have. Parallel mothers follows two single women who become pregnant by accident and meet while giving birth in the same hospital. Their lives intertwine in ways they couldn’t have foreseen, and they teach each other to remember the past and forge a better future. Penelope Cruz and Milena Smith have impeccable chemistry and delve into matters of motherhood, forgiveness and the secrets that consume us with a delicate force.
Almodovar’s most autobiographical film explores what it takes to become an artist. pain and glory tells the story of Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) as he grows from a precocious young boy in a small cave town of Manchegan to an accomplished author struggling to find meaning in his life. Almodovar, on the one hand, tells us about the pains of growing up in a strange place as well as an examination of his romantic failures and professional successes. More than any of his films, this one almost feels like a perverse intrusion into his life that would be uncomfortable if it weren’t for the ease with which he tells this story.
This is an extremely distinct Almodovar-Cruz collaboration as it’s the only time she hasn’t played a pregnant woman or mother. broken hugs opens with the routine life of retired blind director Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), and looks back on his disastrous romance with his lead actress, Lena (Cruz), which led to the downfall of his career. Almodovar explores unhealthy obsession and upper class rights like no other director. This is the tragedy that occurs when money dominates art and fear is confused with love.
High Heels (1991)
Many films focus on the unhealthy Freudian love between a son and his mother, but few focus on that same love between a daughter and her mother. One of Almodovar’s strangest films, High heels follows Rebecca (Victoria April) as she reunites with her mother Becky del Paramo (Marisa Paredes) and becomes entangled in a murder investigation along the way. It’s the textbook of Almodovar’s early life with its vibrant colors, random musical numbers and exotic drag queens. Yet with all of Almodovar’s eccentricities, it remains a story grounded in an abandoned child’s need for love.
It remains Almodovar’s most controversial film. Tie me Up! Tie me up! begins when 23-year-old Ricky (Antonio Banderas) is released from a mental institution and decides to kidnap porn star-turned-actress Marina (Victoria Abril). Almodovar uses this goofy, dangerous, and over-the-top love story to poke holes in cinematic depictions of romance. Many Hollywood romantic comedies feature morally questionable power plays and deceit, but they are often dismissed as mere passionate displays of affection. Almodovar satirizes these clichés while delivering a timeless and unique love story.
The first of Almodovar’s films to receive an Oscar nomination, Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown made him an international star. The film is centered on Pepa (Carmen Maura), a Spaniard in her thirties in shock over her breakup with the evasive Ivan. After deciding to kill herself with a sleeping pill gazpacho, her world is turned upside down. Considering the burning beds, Shiite terrorists, and murderous mothers that appear in this movie, it’s impossible to get bored watching this movie feast.
Talk to Him (2002)
Talk to him is one of the few films by Almodovar to center on two male protagonists, offering a very different perspective from the director. The two men, Benigno and Marco, couldn’t be more different, but their love for two women in comas unites them. Almodovar offers a sympathetic examination of the line between love and obsession and how easily it can be crossed. While most of the men in Almodovar’s films tend to be harshly punished for their heinous acts, these men are given a compassionate portrayal. Although they are not saints, they feel a depth of feeling never seen before for straight men in movies.
The skin in which I live is one of the few terrifying and difficult to watch films of the director’s work. It follows a brilliant plastic surgeon, Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), who has recently created damage-proof synthetic skin. His guinea pig is a mysterious woman imprisoned in his house who is not at all what she seems. This is body horror without the bloody screams and with many more comments on gender-based violence. With the help of Banderas and Elena AnayaAlmodovar examines gender identity, sexuality and the violence of self-actualization in a particularly disturbing way.