Pepi, Luci, Bom
|Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pedro Almodóvar|
|Produced by||Pepón Coromina
|Written by||Pedro Almodóvar|
|Music by||Alaska y los Pegamoides|
|Edited by||José Salcedo|
|Fígaro Films, S.A|
|Distributed by||Alenda, S.A|
|Running time||81 minutes|
|Budget||ESP 6 million
|Box office||ESP 43 million
Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (English: Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap) is a 1980 Spanish film, a campy comedy, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Carmen Maura, Alaska, and Eva Siva, the plot follows the wild adventures of three friends: Pepi, an independent modern woman; Luci, a mousy, masochistic housewife; and Bom, a lesbian punk rock singer.
Pepi, Luci, Bom is Almodóvar's first feature film. It was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for its theatrical release. It became a cult film, emblematic of La Movida Madrileña, a period characterized by a sense of cultural and sexual freedom.
Pepi, a young independent woman living in Madrid, is filling up her Superman sticker album when she receives an unexpected visit from a policeman who has spotted her marijuana plants from the street. Pepi tries to buy his silence with an offer of oral sex, but the policeman rapes her. This ruins her hopes of selling her virginity for a good amount of money. Thirsty for revenge, Pepi arranges for her friend Bom, a teenage punk singer, and her band, Los Bomitonis, to beat up the policeman. Wearing Madrilenian costumes and singing a zarzuela, Pepi's friends give the man a merciless beating one night. However, the next day Pepi realizes that they had attacked the policeman’s innocent twin brother by mistake.
Undaunted, Pepi decides on a more complex form of revenge. She befriends the policeman’s docile wife, Luci, with the excuse of receiving knitting lessons. Pepi's idea is to corrupt Luci and take her away from the wife-beating policeman. During the first knitting class, Pepi's friend, Bom, arrives at the apartment heading for the restroom in order to pee. This leads to the suggestion that, since Luci feels hot, Bom should stand on a chair and urinate over Luci's face. Bom's aggressive behavior satisfies Luci's masochism and the two women become lovers. Back home, Luci has an argument with her husband in which she complains about what he had done to Pepi. With a sense of liberation Luci leaves her husband and her home, moving in with Bom.
The three friends, Pepi, Luci and Bom are immersed in Madrid’s youth scene, attending parties, clubs, concerts and meeting outrageous characters. In one of the concerts, Bom sings with her band, the Bomitonis, a song called "Murciana la marrana" (the Girl from Murcia; the sow). Luci becomes a proud groupie. The highlight of one of the parties is a penis size contest called General Erections, a competition looking for the biggest, most svelte, most inordinate penis. The winner receives the opportunity to do what he wants, how he wants, with whomever he wants. He selects Luci to give him oral sex, which makes her the most envied woman at the party.
Eventually Pepi is forced to find work as her father decides to stop her income. She becomes a creative writer for advertising spots designing ads for sweating, menstruating dolls and multipurpose panties that absorb urine and can double as a dildo. Pepi also begins to write a script which will be the story of lesbian lovers Luci and Bom. The chauvinist policeman is desperately looking for his wife. Meanwhile he takes advantage of naive neighbor Charo, who is in love with Juan, his twin brother. Pretending to be Juan, the policeman sexually assaults Charo.
Finally, the policeman finds Luci coming out of a disco and kidnaps her from her two friends. He gives Luci a terrible beating that sends her to the hospital, where Pepi and Bom visit her. They quickly realize that they have lost Luci. She has decided to return to the person who mistreats her best – her sadistic and tyrannical husband. His brutality is what Luci has always wanted. Bruised and bandaged in her hospital bed, Luci tells Bom she is returning to him for a life of abuse. Bom is lost without Luci and laments that pop is also out of fashion. Pepi has the solution to both problems. Bom should move in with Pepi as her bodyguard and start singing boleros.
- Carmen Maura as Pepi
- Eva Siva as Luciana "Luci"
- Alaska (Olvido Gara) as Bom
- Félix Rotaeta as Policeman / Juan
- Concha Grégori as Charito
- Kiti Manver as Model/singer
- Cecilia Roth as Girl in the panties commercial
- Fabio McNamara (Fabio de Miguel) as Roxy
- Julieta Serrano as Woman dressed as Scarlett O'Hara
- Cristina Sánchez Pascual as Bearded woman
Maura took the leading role of Pepi and Félix Rotaeta played the abusive policeman. Both were instrumental in having the film made. Maura was already an established actress, having found film success with Fernando Colomo's Tigres de Papel. She became Almodóvar's reference actress in the first half of his career. Bom is played by Olvido Gara, then a teenage punk singer, who inspired the character she plays. Gara went on to take the artistic name of Alaska. She has enjoyed a successful artistic career as a singer, first in Alaska and Dinarama and later with Fangoria.
Many actors that appear in minor roles went on to play more important ones in Almodóvar’s subsequent films: Kiti Manaver (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) plays a hot-tempered, Andalusian rock singer; Julieta Serrano (Dark Habits); Cecilia Roth (All About My Mother); Fabio MacNamara (Labyrinth of Passion), a singer and painter, plays a transvestite Avon lady;
Cristina Sánchez Pascual (Dark Habits) appears as a high-pitch bearded woman frustrated in a marriage to a homosexual, in a parody of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Assumpta Serna (Matador) has a non speaking cameo, while Almodóvar himself appears as the host in the general erection contest.
Pepi, Luci, Bom is Almodóvar's first feature film. He had previously made only short films in Super 8, Salome a short in 16mm and a feature length film in super 8 Folle, folle, fólleme, Tim (1978) (Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Fuck Me, Tim), none of which had a soundtrack.
The genesis of Pepi, Luci, Bom was a story written by Almodóvar called "General Erections" published in 1978 in the magazine El Víbora (The Viper). "General Erections" was a comic parody of the 1977 general elections in Spain. The idea to take that story and develop it into a film was born out of his collaboration with the theatrical group Los Goliardos. Performing with them in a small role in Dirty Hands by Jean-Paul Sartre, Almodóvar met Carmen Maura and Félix Rotaeta, who encouraged him to make a film out of General Erections. Almodóvar rewrote the story and changed the title to "Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón" ("Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap").
The initial budget was only 500,000 pesetas that Carmen Maura and Félix Rotaeta helped to collect. At the time, Almodóvar was working for Telefónica, Spain’s national telephone company, as an administrative employee therefore the shooting took place on weekends with a group of volunteers. Without the backing of a studio, Almodóvar was forced to make extensive use of location shooting. The real life residence of gay pop artist painters Costus (Juan Carrero and Enrique Naya), who also appear in the film, served as the place where Luci and Bom set up their home.
The shooting was chaotic; it began in 1978 and lasted a year and a half. Due to the lack of financial means, it took an entire year to produce a film of only fifty minutes. This was insufficient for commercial distribution length. More money was needed and backing from Pepón Coromina, a Catalan producer, allowed Almodóvar to add thirty more minutes of film, shot over the following six months of 1980. The film was blown from 16 mm to a 35 mm format to allow its theatrical release. The crew lacked experience and the cameraman cut off some heads, particularly during the general erections contest scene. The long and chaotic shooting created problems in continuity. When filming started Olvido Gara was fifteen and by the time the filming wrapped she was seventeen. The first scene when Pepi goes to answer the door to the policeman was shot in June 1979, she opened it in December 1979 and they sat together in June 1980.
The film premiered on 19 September 1980 at the San Sebastian Film Festival in the section devoted to new directors. It later toured the independent circuits and then spent four years on the late night showing of the Alphaville Theater in Madrid.
Reviews in Spain were mostly negative, objecting to the film's frivolity and vulgar humor. Pedro Crespo, in the conservative newspaper ABC, described the film a “merely a variation on the age old tradition of vulgar comedy transformed into a contemporary language”. Diego Galán, in El País, praised the film concluding that “We are in the presence of an astonishing and up to now, unique work. Almodóvar has made his first professional full length film and in so doing has undermined with the most respected taboos of our foolish society”. The Spanish newspaper El Periódico, described Almodóvar as "a stubbornly passionate defender of substandard movies".
Pepi, Luci, Bom was released in the United States in 1992, only after Almodóvar became a famous art house film director. The reaction of American critics to the film was, on the whole, hostile. It was generally rebuked for its thematic and formal inconsistency. Janet Maslin in The New York Times considered the film a “rough unfunny comedy notable for its bathroom jokes, humorous rape scene and abysmal home movie cinematography’. She found “its humor of a very adolescent variety… and plot turns that are better described than seen”. Critic Rita Kempley from The Washington Post called it an “amateurish directorial debut, a smutty sexual sideshow most safely viewed in a full body condom”.
The film cost 6 million pesetas and made 43 million pesetas in its initial release in Madrid. With its many kitsch elements, campy style, outrageous humor, and open sexuality, the film became emblematic of a cultural movement of its time, La Movida Madrileña. It amassed a cult following and established Almodóvar as an agent provocateur.
The central theme of the film – female resilience, independence, and solidarity – would be a constant throughout Almodóvar’s career, albeit better depicted in his later and more accomplished films. Like the female characters in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, and Volver, Pepi and Bom are self-sufficient, independent and their friendship is shown as more important that any sexual or love attachment. By contrast, men are either non-existent or presented unsympathetically like the policeman in Pepi, Luci, Bom; Raimunda’s abusive husband in Volver or Pepa's unfaithful lover in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Although Bom and Luci form a lesbian couple, their story is ultimately less important than Pepi and Bom’s friendship. While the friendship of these two remains strong Bom's and Luci affair ends when the latter returns to a heterosexual life of abuse with her husband.
Two scenes put Pepi and Bom's closeness in the foreground. Contrasting Luci's troubled household, Pepi is presented cooking Bom's favorite dish: Bacalao al pil pil. The film aptly closes with the two friends looking ahead to a new life shared together as roommates, helping to support each other. The film also takes on other themes frequent in Almodóvar’s filmography: sexual heterodoxy, drug addiction and a love of pop culture.
Among Almodóvar’s films Pepi, Luci, Bom, his first, is the one who takes more explicitly comedy as a genre. All the others (with the possible exception of Los Amantes pasajeros) incorporate elements of melodrama. The characters are shown as comic archetypes. Pepi is the independent witty modern woman. There is the nasty radical policeman. Bom is shown as a perverse rebellious teenager and Luci as the abused housewife.
The amateurish presentation of the film and its crude humor also sets the film apart from the rest of Almodovar's filmography. Even in Labyrinth of Passion, Almodovar's subsequent film, comic elements are not presented so bluntly. By then, there was also a huge improvement in plot structure and filmography over his first film.
The comic book origins of the film are evident in its loose structure, provocative vulgarity and the intertitles made by famous Spanish illustrator, Ceespe, then an unknown member of La Movida Madrileña. The film was plagued by financial and technical problems: Almodóvar claimed humorously that "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."
Stylistically the film owes a debt to Paul Morrissey's first films and above all to John Waters' Pink Flamingos. Almodóvar confronts the spectator with unexpected outrageous situations, including a lesbian golden shower scene in the middle of a knitting lesson.
The technical and plot defects of the films are apparent, particularly when compared with Almodóvar's subsequent polished and complex works. However the film captured the spirit of its time, La Movida Madrileña, presenting Madrid as an exciting city where anything goes.
The film centers on youth culture, showing it as wild, frivolous, adventurous and free from taboos. There is political symbolism in the right wing, old macho attitudes of the policeman, who represent the disappearing Francoist society and is presented unsympathetically. Pepi and Bom stand for Spain's modern woman, the wild new face of a liberated democratic Spain. Luci is the self-sacrificing Spanish housewife, trapped between the old and new Spain. She is a masochist who yearns for the brutality of the past.
Blurring the limits of sexual identity, transsexual characters appear in many Almodóvar’s films. Here there is a drag queen called Roxy, played by Fabio McNamara, Almodóvar's singing partner in a glam rock parody duo. The comic elements of the film defy good taste and are bluntly presented. Almódovar does not linger in the oddness of the sexual relationship between a traditional housewife in her forties and a rebellious punk teenager, which is presented without judgment as nothing out of the ordinary. Pepi, Luci, Bom is clearly an amateurish film; a first-time director, Almodóvar learned his craft as he made it.
The film opens with the song Do the Swim by Little Nell, singing co-star of Jim Sharman's cult 1975 film the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The counterculture song Murciana, written by Fabio McNamara, is prominently featured in the film, performed by Alaska and Los Pegamoides with a mixture of vulgarity and absurdity. The film closes with a Latin-American song Estaba escrito by Monna Bell, a Chilean singer.
Pepi, Luci, Bom is available in Region 2 DVD in Spanish with English subtitles. It was released in The U.K as part of The Almodóvar Collection (Vol.1). The film has not been released on DVD in the United States.
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