Pedro Almodovar is, without a doubt, one of the most famous contemporary Spanish filmmakers. His numerous films, recognizable by their complex characters, moving narratives, and colorful cinematography have garnered much acclaim by international audiences and critics. Almodovar frequently centers his films on a strong female character, as she negotiates themes such as desire, identity, obligation, and longing. While watching these engaging dramas, my imagination is stirred as much by the striking juxtaposition of images (Spanish rural and city life, flashbacks and montages) as it is by the powerful acting of Almodovar’s team of international stars.
I was first introduced to Almodovar’s brilliance through the film “Todo sobre mi madre”/ “All About My Mother” (1999). It is the story of Manuela, who has just lost her son, Esteban in a tragic car accident. Upon reading his journals, she discovers that he harbored fantasies of finding his biological father (whose identity Manuela had always kept secret). In an attempt to reconcile her son’s death, Manuela travels to Barcelona to find Esteban’s father – who was also formerly named Esteban, and is now named Lola the Pioneer.
Curious to see what else Almodovar had to offer, I watched “Hable con ella”/”Talk to Her” (2002), and was not disappointed. The film depicts the stories of Benigno (a healthcare professional) and Marco (a travel writer), two men awaiting the recovery of their respective comatose lovers, Alicia, a beautiful dance student and Lydia, a famous matador who was gored by a bull. In typical Almodovar fashion, the story unfolds through a series of nonlinear flashbacks and flash forward scenes that recount the lives of these unfortunate couples. “Talk to Her” is much darker than “All About My Mother,” but just as compelling.
My favorite Almodovar film is “Volver” (2006), the film for which Penelope Cruz was nominated for an Academy Award. I find it to be the perfect combination of ironic humor and drama, the pacing is near perfect, and the acting is superb. “Volver” is the story of Raimunda (Cruz) and Sole, two sisters facing myriad challenges in their personal lives. A few years before the film begins, their parents died in a fire in their village. When Sole returns to the village for the funeral of their elderly Aunt Paula, she encounters the ghost of her mother. The two sisters soon discover why their mother’s ghost has returned to earth- to help both of them at crucial moments in their lives and to clear up misconceptions related to their family history.
For a healthy dose of Spanish cinema this fall, I highly recommend these three films. They will certainly make an impression and, if you’re anything like me, leave you wanting more.
All three of these Almodovar films are available on DVD.