Pedro Almodóvar (2008)
|Born||Pedro Almodóvar Caballero
25 September 1949
Calzada de Calatrava, Ciudad Real, Spain
Pedro Almodóvar Caballero (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpeðɾo almoˈðoβar kaβaˈʎeɾo]; born 25 September 1949) is a Spanish film director, screenwriter, producer and former actor. He came to prominence as a director and screenwriter during La Movida Madrileña, a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. His first few films characterised the sense of sexual and political freedom of the period.
Almodóvar achieved international recognition for his black comedy-drama film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. He later won the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay for the comedy-drama All About My Mother (1999) and the drama Talk to Her (2002) respectively. Other popular films includethe dark romantic comedy film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), the melodrama High Heels (1991), the romantic drama thriller Live Flesh (1997), the dramas Bad Education (2004) and Volver (2006), the romantic thriller Broken Embraces (2009) and the psychological thriller The Skin I Live In (2011). His films are marked by his employment of certain actors and creative personnel, complex narratives, melodrama, pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humour, strong colours and glossy décor. Desire, passion, family and identity are among Almodóvar’s most prevalent themes.
Noted for being one of the most internationally-successful Spanish filmmakers, Almodóvar's films have a worldwide and cult following. He has won 2 Academy Awards, 5 BAFTA Awards, 6 European Film Awards, 2 Golden Globe Awards, 6 Goya Awards and several honours at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1997, Almodóvar received the French Legion of Honour, followed by the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1999. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and received an honorary doctoral degree in 2009 from Harvard University for his contribution to the arts. In 2013, he received an honorary European Film Award for European Achievement to World Cinema.
- 1 Early life and career beginnings
- 2 Film career
- 2.1 Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980)
- 2.2 Labyrinth of Passion (1982)
- 2.3 Dark Habits (1983)
- 2.4 What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
- 2.5 Matador (1986)
- 2.6 Law of Desire (1987)
- 2.7 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
- 2.8 Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
- 2.9 High Heels (1991)
- 2.10 Kika (1993)
- 2.11 The Flower of My Secret (1995)
- 2.12 Live Flesh (1997)
- 2.13 All About My Mother (1999)
- 2.14 Talk to Her (2002)
- 2.15 Bad Education (2004)
- 2.16 Volver (2006)
- 2.17 Broken Embraces (2009)
- 2.18 The Skin I Live In (2011)
- 2.19 I'm So Excited (2013)
- 2.20 Silencio (TBA)
- 3 Frequent collaborators
- 4 Filmography
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and career beginnings
Pedro Almodóvar Caballero was born on 25 September 1949 in Calzada de Calatrava, a small rural town of Almagro, Ciudad Real, a province of Castile-La Mancha in Spain. He was born into a family of four children and has two sisters and one brother. His father, Antonio Almodóvar, was a winemaker, and his mother, Francisca Caballero, who died in 1999, was a letter reader and transcriber for illiterate neighbours.
When Pedro was eight years old, the family sent him to study at a religious boarding school in the city of Cáceres, Extremadura, in western Spain, with the hope that he might someday become a priest. His family eventually joined him in Cáceres, where his father opened a gas station and his mother opened a bodega where she sold her own wine. Unlike Calzada, there was a cinema in Cáceres. "Cinema became my real education, much more than the one I received from the priest," he said later in an interview. Almodóvar was influenced by such directors as Luis Buñuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alfred Hitchcock, John Waters, Ingmar Bergman, Edgar Neville, Federico Fellini, George Cukor, Luis García Berlanga and neorealist Marco Ferreri.
Against his parents' wishes, Almodóvar moved to Madrid in 1967 to become a filmmaker. As a result of dictator Francisco Franco closing the National School of Cinema in Madrid, he had to become self-taught. To support himself, Almodóvar had a number of jobs, including selling used items in the famous Madrid flea market El Rastro and as an administrative assistant with Spanish phone company Telefónica, where he worked for twelve years. Since he worked only until three in the afternoon, he had the rest of the day to pursue his own interests.
In the early seventies, Almodóvar grew interested in experimental cinema and theatre. He collaborated with the vanguard theatrical group Los Goliardos, in which he played his first professional roles and met actress Carmen Maura. Madrid's flourishing alternative cultural scene became the perfect scenario for Almodóvar's social talents. He was a crucial figure in La Movida Madrileña (the Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of dictator Francisco Franco. Alongside Fabio McNamara, Almodóvar sang in a glam rock parody duo.
Writing under the pseudonym Patty Diphusa, Almodóvar also penned various articles for major newspapers and magazines, such as El País, Diario 16 and La Luna as well as contributing to comic strips, articles and stories in counterculture magazines, such as Star, El Víbora and Vibraciones. He published a novella, Fuego en las entrañas (Fire in the Guts) and kept writing stories that were eventually published in a compilation volume entitled El sueño de la razón (The Dream of Reason).
Almodóvar bought his first camera, a Super-8, with his first paycheck from Telefónica when he was 22 years old, and began to make hand-held short films. Around 1974, he made his first short film, and by the end of the 1970s they were shown in Madrid's night circuit and in Barcelona. These shorts had overtly sexual narratives and no soundtrack: Dos putas, o, Historia de amor que termina en boda (Two Whores, or, A Love Story that Ends in Marriage) in 1974; La caída de Sodoma (The Fall of Sodom) in 1975; Homenaje (Homage) in 1976; La estrella (The Star) in 1977; Sexo Va: Sexo viene (Sex Comes and Goes); and Complementos (Shorts) in 1978, his first film in 16mm. He remembers, "I showed them in bars, at parties… I could not add a soundtrack because it was very difficult. The magnetic strip was very poor, very thin. I remember that I became very famous in Madrid because, as the films had no sound, I took a cassette with music while I personally did the voices of all the characters, songs and dialogues."
After four years of working with shorts in Super-8 format, Almodóvar made his first full-length film Folle, folle, fólleme, Tim (Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Tim) in Super-8 in 1978, followed by his first 16 mm short Salome. The film's stars Carmen Maura and Felix Rotaeta, encouraged him to make his first feature film in 16 mm and helped him raise the money to finance it.
Asked to explain the success of his films, he says that they are very entertaining. "It's important not to forget that films are made to entertain. That's the key." He was heavily influenced by old Hollywood movies in which everything happens around a female main character, and aims to continue in that tradition.
Almodóvar is openly gay, and he has incorporated elements of underground and gay culture into mainstream forms with wide crossover appeal, thus redefining perceptions of Spanish cinema and Spain. He acknowledges, however, that his films are also very personal--"[M]y films are very Spanish, but on the other hand they are capriciously personal. You cannot measure Spain by my films." 
Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980)
Almodóvar made his first feature film Pepi, Luci, Bom (Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón) in 1980 with a very low budget of 400,000 pesetas and a team of volunteers shooting on weekends. Based on his photo-novella, General Erections, previously published in the magazine The Viper (El Víbora), the film follows the adventures of three characters: Pepi, who wants revenge from the corrupt policeman who raped her; Luci, a mousy, masochistic housewife; and Bom, a lesbian punk rock singer. The central theme of the film, friendship and female solidarity, appears repeatedly in Almodóvar’s filmography.
The film was plagued by financial and technical problems, but Almodóvar looked back fondly on his first film: "Pepi, Luci, Bom is a film full of defects. When a film has only one or two, it is considered an imperfect film, while when there is a profusion of technical flaws, it is called style. That’s what I said joking around when I was promoting the film, but I believe that that was closer to the truth".
The film captured the sense of cultural and sexual freedom of the time and established Almodóvar as an agent provocateur. With its many kitsch elements, campy style, outrageous humor, and explicit sexuality (there is a famous golden shower scene in the middle of a knitting lesson), the film amassed a cult following and toured the independent circuits before spending four years on the late night showing of the Alphaville Theater in Madrid which provided the funds for Almodóvar's second film.
Labyrinth of Passion (1982)
Labyrinth of Passion (Laberinto de Pasiones) is a screwball comedy about multiple identities, one of Almodóvar’s favorite subjects. The plot follows the adventures of two sex-crazy characters: Sexilia, an aptly named nymphomaniac pop star, and Riza, the gay son of the leader of a fictional Middle Eastern country. Their unlikely destiny is to find one another, overcome their sexual preferences and live happily ever after on a tropical island. The campy roundelay also involves Queti, Sexilia’s “biggest fan”, whose delusional father rapes her. The film is an outrageous look at love and sex, framed in Madrid of the early 1980s, during the so-called Movida madrileña, a period of sexual adventurousness between the dissolution of Franco's authoritarian regime and the onset of AIDS consciousness. Labyrinth of Passion caught the spirit of liberation which then ruled in Madrid and it became a cult film.
Almodóvar said about Labyrinth of Passion: "I like the film even if it could have been better made. The main problem is that the story of the two leads is much less interesting than the stories of all the secondary characters. But precisely because there are so many secondary characters, there's a lot in the film I like."
Dark Habits (1983)
Dark Habits (Entre Tinieblas) heralded a change in tone to somber melodrama with comic elements. This film has an almost all-female cast featuring many of Almodóvar's favorite leading ladies: Carmen Maura, Julieta Serrano, Marisa Paredes and Chus Lampreave. The narrative centers upon a cabaret singer, who, running away from justice, finds refuge in a convent of destitute nuns, each of whom explores a different sin. The mother superior, a lesbian drug addict, falls in love with the singer.
The film is a satire of Spain's religious institutions, portraying spiritual desolation and moral bankruptcy. Dark Habits explores the force of desire in characters who are ruled by their intuition rather than reason. This is also Almodóvar’s first film in which he clearly uses popular music to express emotion: in a pivotal scene, the mother superior and her protégé sing along with Lucho Gatica’s bolero: Encadenados (Chained together).
What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
Almodóvar's next film, What Have I Done to Deserve This? (¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto?) was inspired by the Spanish black comedies of the late 50s and early 60s. It is the tale of a struggling housewife named Gloria and her dysfunctional family: her abusive husband, who works as a taxi driver; her oldest son, a drug dealer; the youngest son, who sells his body to the local perverts; and the grandmother who hates the city and just wants to return to her rural village.
The theme of the downtrodden housewife coping with the travails of everyday life arises repeatedly in the director's work, as do other issues of female independence and solidarity. What Have I Done to Deserve This? is also a critique on consumerism and patriarchal culture. In one scene, the housewife trades her own son so she doesn't have to pay a dentist bill, and in another the only witness of a crime is a lizard, aptly named “Money.”
What Have I Done to Deserve This? was more successful than Almodóvar’s previous films and became his first with international distribution.
Almodóvar's subsequent films deepened his exploration of sexual desire and the sometimes brutal laws governing it. Matador is a dark, complex story that centers on the relationship between a former bullfighter and a murderous female lawyer, both of whom can only experience sexual fulfillment in conjunction with killing. The film offered up desire as a bridge between sexual attraction and death.
Written together with Spanish novelist Jesús Ferrero, Matador drew away from the naturalism and humor of the director’s previous work into a deeper and darker terrain. Almodóvar established the interrelation between sexuality and violence as seen in his cinematographic quotation of the final sequence from King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun. The violent elements of the film caused some controversy. Almodóvar justified his use of violence explaining "The moral of all my films is to get to a stage of greater freedom." Almodóvar went on to note, "I have my own morality. And so do my films. If you see Matador through the perspective of traditional morality, it's a dangerous film because it's just a celebration of killing. Matador is like a legend. I don't try to be realistic; it's very abstract, so you don't feel identification with the things that are happening, but with the sensibility of this kind of romanticism".
Law of Desire (1987)
Almodóvar solidified his creative independence when he started the production company El Deseo, together with his brother Agustín Almodóvar, who has also had several cameo roles in his films. From 1986 on, Pedro Almodóvar has produced his own films.
The first movie that came out from El Deseo was the aptly named Law of Desire (La Ley del Deseo). The narrative follows three main characters: a gay film director who embarks on a new project; his sister, an actress who used to be his brother (played by Carmen Maura), and a repressed murderously obsessive stalker (played by Antonio Banderas).
The film presents a gay love triangle and drew away from most representations of homosexuals in films. These characters are neither coming out nor confronting sexual guilt or homophobia; they are already liberated, like the homosexuals in Fassbinder’s films. Almodóvar said about Law of Desire : " It's the key film in my life and career. It deals with my vision of desire, something that's both very hard and very human. By this I mean the absolute necessity of being desired and the fact that in the interplay of desires it's rare that two desires meet and correspond".
Almodóvar's films rely heavily on the capacity of his actors to pull through difficult roles into a complex narrative. In Law of Desire Carmen Maura plays the role of Tina, a woman who used to be a man. Almodóvar explains: "Carmen is required to imitate a woman, to savour the imitation, to be conscious of the kitsch part that there is in the imitation, completely renouncing parody, but not humour."
Elements from Law of Desire grew into the basis for two later films: Carmen Maura appears in a stage production of Cocteau’s The Human Voice, which inspired Almodóvar’s next film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; and Tina's confrontation scene with an abusive priest formed a partial genesis for Bad Education.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Almodóvar’s next film was his first huge international success: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios), a feminist light comedy that further established Almodóvar as a "women's director" like George Cukor and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Almodóvar has said that women make better characters: “women are more spectacular as dramatic subjects, they have a greater range of registers, etc.”
The film, staged as a faux adaptation of a theatrical work, details a two-day period in the life of Pepa (Carmen Maura), a professional movie dubber who has been abruptly abandoned by her married lover and who frantically tries to track him down. In the course of her search she discovers some of his secrets, and realizes her true feelings.
Inspired by Hollywood comedies of the 1950s, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown became the stepping stone for Pedro Almodóvar's later work. This light comedy of rapid-fire dialogue and fast-paced action remains one of Almodóvar’s most accessible films (with no drugs or sex, although there is a sequence in which a sleeping woman dreams that she is having sex, and we see only her reactions). The film received public and critical acclaim worldwide, and brought Almodóvar to the attention of American audiences. Women was showered with many awards, and received an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
Almodóvar's next film marked the breaking-off with his reference actress, Carmen Maura, and the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with another great actress of Spanish and European cinema: Victoria Abril. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (¡Átame!) was also the director's fifth and most important collaboration with Antonio Banderas.
In Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Ricky (played by Antonio Banderas), a recently released psychiatric patient, kidnaps and holds hostage an actress (played by Victoria Abril) in order to make her fall in love with him. “I’m 23 years old, I have fifty thousand pesetas and I am alone in the world. I will try to be a good husband for you and a good father for your children,” he tells her.
Rather than populate the film with many characters, as in his previous films, here the story focuses on the compelling relationship at its center: the actress and her kidnapper literally struggling for power and desperate for love. The film’s title line ¡Tie Me Up! is unexpectedly uttered by the actress as a genuine request. She does not know if she will try to escape or not, and when she realizes she has feelings for her captor, she prefers not to be given a chance.
In spite of some dark elements, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! can be described as a romantic comedy, and the director's most clear love story, with a plot similar to William Wyler's thriller, The Collector. Nevertheless, the film was the subject of heated debate; it was decried by feminists and women's advocacy groups for what they perceived as the film's sadomasochist undertones. Its U.S. release was marked by further scandal and controversy. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which determines film ratings in the U.S., marginalized its distribution with the stigma of an 'X' rating. The film's distribution company, Miramax, filed a lawsuit against the MPAA over the X rating, but lost in court. However, numerous other filmmakers had complained about the X rating given to their films, and in September 1990 the MPAA dropped the X rating and replaced it with the NC-17 rating. This was especially helpful to films of explicit nature that were previously regarded unfairly as pornographic because of the X rating.
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, which did not enjoy the wide acclaim of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, rather had a negative reception among some Spanish critics, who declared that Almodóvar had lost his sense of direction; similar criticism was leveled at his two subsequent films.
High Heels (1991)
The family melodrama High Heels (Tacones Lejanos) is built around the fractured relationship between a self-involved mother, a famous torch song singer, and the grown daughter she abandoned as a child, who works as a TV newscaster. The daughter has married her mother's ex-lover and has befriended a female impersonator of her mother. Popular songs, always a key element in Almodóvar’s work, are never more present than in this film full of boleros. High Heels also contains an unexpected prison yard dance sequence.
The film has the feel of other mother-daughter melodramas like Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce, Imitation of Life and particularly Autumn Sonata, which is quoted directly in the film. High Heels was an interpretative tour de force for two essential actresses of the "Almodovarian universe": Marisa Paredes and Victoria Abril.
After the melodramatic intensity of High Heels, Almodóvar took another sudden turn in his career by shooting one of his most unclassifiable movies: Kika, a choral film where each character belongs to a different film genre, thus generating a very free and heterodox movie. The plot centers on Kika, a clueless but good-hearted make-up artist involved with an older expatriate American writer and his bewildered stepson. A vampy, oddball television reporter who is constantly in search of sensational stories follows Kika's misadventures.
Kika is a critique of mass media, particularly its sensationalism. Here Almodóvar gives a cameo role to his real life elderly mother, Francisca Caballero, who plays an ill-qualified hostess of a literary T.V. program. She reads badly and not much as her eyesight is bad, but she explains to the audience that she has been given her job as presenter by her son, the director (a self-reflexive Almodóvar), so that mother and son can spend time together.
Kika created a certain amount of controversy in the United States thanks to a humorous rape scene that was perceived as being both misogynistic and exploitative. The film was not well received by critics, but opened the door to a new era in the director’s career.
The Flower of My Secret (1995)
Almodóvar changed gears with his next effort, 1995's The Flower of My Secret (La flor de mi secreto). It is an exploration of denial in its various forms, a film in which melodrama is treated more as theme rather than as plot line. The Flower of My Secret is the story of Leo Macias, a successful romance writer who has to confront both a professional and personal crisis. Estranged from her husband, a military officer who has volunteered for an international peacekeeping role in Bosnia and Herzegovina to avoid her, Leo fights to hold on to a past that has already eluded her, not realizing she has already set her future path by her own creativity and by supporting the creative efforts of others.
Starring Almodóvar regular Marisa Paredes, this psychological drama was hailed as his most mature film to date, and remains one of the director's humblest films. Leaving Almodóvar's usual choral exercises aside, the story centered on the love-torn writer. The Flower of My Secret has many common elements with All About My Mother and Talk to Her. The three films are about “loss, growth and recovery”.
The Flower of my Secret heralded a change in Almodóvar's filmography to a more mature period. It is the transitional film between his earlier and later style. It is worth noting, however, that many leading critics did not respond well to this film.
Live Flesh (1997)
Almodóvar has written all of his films, but with Live Flesh (Carne trémula) the director shared script writing credits. This was his first script adapted from a book, Ruth Rendell’s novel Live Flesh. All that remains in the film from the book is the plot line of the two male protagonists: David, a police detective, and Víctor, the man accused of wounding and paralyzing him. Upon his release, Víctor, looking for revenge, is soon entangled in the lives not only of David and his wife, but also of David’s former partner, Sancho, and Sancho’s wife.
Live Flesh explores love, loss, and suffering with a sober restraint only briefly glimpsed in the director's earlier work. The film tells the story of several characters implicated in each other's fates in ways that are beyond their control. Live Flesh is historically framed from 1970, when Franco declared a state of emergency, to 1996, when Spain had completely shaken off the restrictions of the Franco regime. With this film Almodóvar started his collaboration with Penélope Cruz.
All About My Mother (1999)
Almodóvar then continued to work in more serious dramatic confines, directing All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre). The film grew out of a brief scene in The Flower of My Secret, telling the story of a mourning mother who, after reading the last entry in her dead son's journal about how he wishes to meet his father for the first time, decides to travel to Barcelona in search of the boy's father. She must tell the father that she had their son after she left him many years ago, and that he has now died. Once there, she encounters a number of odd characters - a transsexual prostitute, a pregnant nun, and a lesbian actress - all of whom help her cope with her grief.
The film revisited Almodóvar's familiar themes of the power of sisterhood and of family. Dedicated to Bette Davis, Romy Schneider and Gena Rowlands, All About My Mother is steeped in theatricality, from its backstage setting to its plot, modeled on the works of Federico García Lorca and Tennessee Williams, to the characters' preoccupation with modes of performance.
The comic relief on the film centers on Agrado, a pre-operative transsexual. In one scene, she tells the story of her body and its relationship to plastic surgery and silicone, culminating with a statement of her own philosophy: “you get to be more authentic the more you become like what you have dreamed of yourself”.
All About My Mother received more awards and honors than any other film in the Spanish motion picture industry. Its recognition includes an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a Golden Globe in the same category, Best Director Award and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Award at Cannes; the French Cesar for Best Foreign Film, the Goya Award as best film of the year, best Actress in a Leading Role for Argentine actress Cecilia Roth and a twelfth Annual European Film Award.
Talk to Her (2002)
Two years later, Almodóvar hit another career high with Talk to Her (2002). Starring Javier Camara and Dario Grandinetti, the film revolves around two men who become friends while taking care of the comatose women they love, played by Leonor Watling and Rosario Flores. Combining elements of modern dance and silent filmmaking with a narrative that embraces coincidence and fate, in the film, Almodóvar plots the lives of his characters, thrown together by unimaginably bad luck, towards an unexpected conclusion. Talk to Her was hailed by critics and embraced by arthouse audiences, particularly in America. Almodóvar won numerous honors across the world for his film, including an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, a César Award for Best Film and both a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In addition, he garnered his first and yet only Best Director nod at the Oscars.
Bad Education (2004)
In 2004, Almodóvar followed with Bad Education, a richly baroque tale of child sexual abuse and mixed identities, starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez. In the drama film, two children, Ignacio and Enrique, discover love, cinema and fear in a religious school at the start of the 1960s. Bad Education has a complex structure that not only uses film within a film, but also stories that open up into other stories, real and imagined to narrate the same story: A tale of child molestation and its aftermath of faithlessness, creativity, despair, blackmail and murder. Sexual abuse by Catholic priests, transsexuality, drug use, and a metafiction are also important themes and devices in the plot. Almodóvar used elements of film noir, borrowing in particular from Double Indemnity. The film's protagonist, Juan (Gael Garcia Bernal), was modeled largely on Patricia Highsmith’s most famous character, Tom Ripley, as played by Alain Delon in René Clément's Purple Noon. A criminal without scruples, but with an adorable face that betrays nothing of his true nature. Almodóvar explains : "He also represents a classic film noir character - the femme fatale. Which means that when other characters come into contact with him, he embodies fate, in the most tragic and noir sense of the word." Almodóvar worked over ten years on the screenplay for the film, which received the honor of opening in the 57th Cannes Film Festival in 2004, the first Spanish film to do so.
Volver (Return), a mixture of comedy, family drama and ghost story, is set in part in La Mancha (the director's native region). The film opens showing dozens of women furiously scrubbing the graves of their deceased, establishing the influence of the dead over the living as a key theme. The plot follows the story of three generations of women in the same family who survive wind, fire, and even death. The film is an ode to female resilience, where men are literally disposable.
Many of Almodóvar's stylistic hallmarks are present: the stand-alone song (a rendition of the Argentinian tango song "Volver"), references to reality TV, and an homage to classic film (in this case Luchino Visconti's Bellissima).
Volver started as a story of la España negra, or 'black Spain'--the rural, superstitious and conservative part of the country still often associated, the director says, with violence, tragedy, even backwardness: "It looks like they are living a century before. But I tried to demonstrate that the same Spain, in the same local places with the same local characters, could be called 'white Spain', because the neighbors are in complete solidarity, all the women join together and create a kind of family. The movie really talks about women who survive, women who fight fiercely.
The storyline of Volver appears as both a novel and movie script in Almodóvar's earlier film, The Flower of My Secret. The film reunited Almodóvar with Carmen Maura, who had appeared in several of his early films.
Broken Embraces (2009)
Almodóvar’s next film Broken Embraces (2009), a romantic thriller film starring Lluís Homar, José Luis Gómez as well as Volver stars Cruz and Portillo, became the director’s longest and most expensive feature. A four-way tale of dangerous love, it was shot in the style of a hard-boiled 1950s American film noir or its descendant, the neo-noir genre. The plot follows the tragic fate of a former film director, who was blinded in a car accident fourteen years before. The film has a fractured puzzling structure, mixing past and present and film within a film that Almodóvar explored previously in both Talk to Her and Bad Education. Broken Embraces was accepted into the main selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival in competition for the prestigious Palme d'Or, his third film to do so and fourth to screen at the festival. It was nominated for the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Almodóvar's sixth film to be nominated in this category and was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
Identity, creativity and survival, frequent themes in Almodóvar's films, were given another twist in The Skin I Live In, the director's first incursion into the physiological horror genre. The film centers on Vera, played by Elena Anaya, a young woman held captive by an amoral plastic surgeon who performs skin experiments on her. The doctor is played by Antonio Banderas, reunited after 21 years with the director who launched him to international stardom. The Skin I Live In has many cinematic influences, most notably the French horror film Eyes Without a Face directed by Georges Franju, but also refers to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the style of the films of David Cronenberg, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Umberto Lenzi and Lucio Fulci while also paying tribute to the films of Fritz Lang and F. W. Murnau. Moving away from the comedies and female driven melodramas that made him famous, Almodóvar set this tale of voyeurism and a cruel act of revenge, loosely based on the French novel Tarantula, in a cold and austere atmosphere.
I'm So Excited (2013)
In February 2012, El Deseo announced that Almodóvar would start filming his next project, a "witty" comedy entitled I'm So Excited (Los amantes pasajeros), in summer 2012, with cameos by Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. The film was released on 8 March 2013 to mixed reviews. The narrative takes place almost entirely on an aircraft in flight.
Almodóvar revealed to The Financial Times in January 2015 that his next film will be called Silencio. He has finished writing the script and is looking to start filming in April 2015. He described it as a "hard-hitting drama" that will see his "return to the cinema of women."
Almodóvar often casts certain actors in many of his films. Actors who have performed in his films 3 or more times in either lead, supporting or cameo roles include Chus Lampreave (8), Antonio Banderas (7), Carmen Maura (7), Cecilia Roth (7), Rossy de Palma (6), Penélope Cruz (5), Kiti Manver (5), Fabio MacNamara (5), Marisa Paredes (5), Julieta Serrano (5), Eva Siva (5), Lola Dueñas (4), Lupe Barrado (4), Carmen Machi (4), Victoria Abril (3), Javier Cámara (3), Bibiana Fernández (3), Verónica Forqué (3), Mariola Fuentes (3), Concha Grégori (3), Fernando Guillén (3), Loles León (3), Nacho Martínez (3) and Cristina Sánchez Pascual (3).
Esther García has been involved in production since Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) and Pedro Almodóvar's brother Agustín Almodóvar has produced all of his films since 1986 (the first being Law of Desire). Both of them regularly appear in cameo acting roles in their films. His mother, Francisca Caballero, made cameos in 4 films before she died.
Film editor José Salcedo has been responsible for editing all of Almodóvar's films since 1980 and cinematographer José Luis Alcaine has collaborated on a total of 6 films with Almodóvar, particularly his most recent films. Their earliest collaboration was on Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988); their most recent on I'm So Excited (2013). Angel Luis Fernández was responsible for cinematography in 5 of Almodóvar's earlier films in the 1980s, from Labyrinth of Passion (1982) until Law of Desire (1987). In the 1990s, Almodóvar collaborated with Alfredo Mayo on two films and Affonso Beato on three films.
Composer Bernardo Bonezzi wrote the music for 6 of his earlier films from Labyrinth of Passion (1982) until Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). Since The Flower of My Secret (1995), Alberto Iglesias has composed the music for all of Almodóvar's films.
Art design on Almodóar's films has invariably been the responsibility of Antxón Gomez in recent years, though other collaborators include Román Arango, Javier Fernández and Pin Morales.
Almodóvar's frequent collaborators for costume design include José María de Cossío, Sonia Grande and Paco Delgado. Almodóvar has also worked with designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace on a few films.
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