Tuesday 26 May 2009

A Brief Almodovar Pause...

My first Pedro Almodovar film (like many people) was the Oscar winning "All About My Mother". Though gorgeous looking, the story never really caught my interest - probably due at least partially to the fact that I wasn't (and unfortunately still aren't) very conversant in the story of "Streetcar Named Desire". So I put him off for awhile...

Next was the pretty damn terrific "Talk To Her". Filled with deeply flawed, but interesting characters, it had my attention throughout. But I still put him off...I felt his earlier films would be even less interesting than "All About My Mother".

Well, he hasn't disappointed me since diving 3 films deeper into his work. First was "Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown". With zip to spare, this film wove great subtle and slapstick comedic moments through numerous strong yet troubled female characters. I was totally surprised by it and resolved to catch up with as much of his work as possible.

I don't have the above three films on disc, otherwise I could paint an even brighter picture of Almodovar's use of colour, framing and focus on little details. But I figured I'd show all three of those characteristics with some screenshots from "The Flower Of My Secret" and then wind up with just pure visual splendor from the end credits of "Volver". Just because I want to post something purty...

Marisa Paredes character of Leo Macias has such a great face...It sparkles, rages, sulks, laughs and shows the wear of so many emotions always being writ large.

And yet, Almodovar constantly obscures her features behind curtains, parts of mirrors, partitions, etc. Along with the many straight mirror reflections and her many emotions, she seems to not quite be whole and possibly unravelling before us.

The little details are everywhere. A set designer's dream...I love all those collectibles items behind Leo - the little chairs and colourful pots and containers.

The details combine with colours - contrasting or just rich and vibrant - when the frame is filled with just objects.

And there's the fiery dancer in red...

"The Flower Of My Secret" probably ranks for me just a shade behind "Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown", but it's still an excellent film and creates a wealth of good will and sympathy for its main character.

As a bonus, a little eye candy from the end of "Volver". It contains a powerhouse performance by Penelope Cruz (I could listen to her speak Spanish all day...) and ties its theme of "coming back" (or more accurately translated from the title - "to return") really well into several different plot lines.

And yet all I want to show for now are these snippets from the continously flowing and always changing colours and patterns of the final credits:

That's all I got...I just needed a good Screencap post.

I'm hoping to gather more as I dig into "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" and "Live Flesh" - the next two Almodovars in my sights.


James Yates said...

Excellent post, beautiful screencaps. Sorry for the long delay in comments.

It's funny you mention introductions to Almodovar, since mine was "Live Flesh." I thought it was well-written and very well-acted, yet I don't remember being hooked by the production design or cinematography (granted, it's been about six years since I've seen it).
I also think that "Bad Education" received so much attention for its plot and depictions of sex that the production design was lost in the shuffle. It might not have been as striking as the screencaps you've provided, but it truly added to the film's emotional complexity.

I supposed I could IMDB this question and have an answer in two minutes, but I'll ask here: Does Almodovar use the same production designer for his films?

Ryan McNeil said...

Great post! I've actually never seen WOMAN/VERGE (mock me if you must), but TALK TO HER is one of my all-time favorite flicks.

Pedro is such a lavish director, that I could almost watch many of his films on mute...the photography, the use of colour, the expressiveness that he gets from his actors...it all so sublime! I even included that elegant opening sequence in the cemetary in a top five a few weeks back:


Oh, and while you're on your Almodovar kick, don't forget to look at BAD EDUCATION too.

James McNally said...

Talk to Her was my intro and I loved it, but Bad Education was a letdown. Those are the only two I've seen so far. Must catch up with Volver soon, at the very least.

Love your screencap posts!

Lights in the Dusk said...

Great work on this one! The Flower of My Secret is one of my favourite films from Almodóvar (probably top three alongside Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and All About My Mother) and you've done an amazing job of conveying, both through words and the films staggering images, just why it's so remarkable.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on future Almodóvar works, particularly the outrageous Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks everyone for the comments!

Jamie, I did a quick search on IMDB and it seems Almodovar does NOT use the same Set Decoraters or Production Designers every film. I do kind of expect that there will be bright colours in every film though...

No mocking from me Hatter. I'll save it for when it's really necessary...B-) I re-read your opening titles post and I agree with what you said about "Volver" - it gets right to the characters and type of women the movie will deal with.

James, I think you'll like "Volver" and of course I highly recommend "Women" and "Flower". I had actually rented "Bad Education" awhile ago but had to return it before watching it.

Thanks Linden...I think you've convinced me to get "Tie Me Up" as my next Almodovar. I'll report back when done...B-)

Marc Saint-Cyr said...

Excellent post, Bob! Almodovar indeed has a great eye for color. I also love that end credit sequence for Volver.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks Marc...I've only managed to see "Live Flesh" since then - enjoyed it quite a bit, but it certainly was not what I expected. Very dark in spots in regards to its subject matter.