slightly carla: day five

day five reacquaints me with pedro almodóvar's breakthrough film, women on the verge of a nervous breakdown (1988).

i was in love with his movies in the late eighties when he started to break big in the states but i suspect at eighteen or so i was not so well equipped to understand them. one of the great functions of the queue is that it sometimes acts as a time capsule, allowing me to unearth things that i packed away long ago and see them in a new light. before this week i had not watched this movie since 1988 and it was a very different experience this time around.

it was an interesting choice to follow pauline at the beach (1983), as it takes the farcical elements so subtly present in rohmer's film and spins them outward in ever more dizzying loops.

brits couldn't have made this at all. they would have ended up with something more like the latest installment of the carry on series.

carmen maura stars as pepa, a voiceover actress whose rat bastard lover, iván has just left her. she is despondent, contemplating suicide, even going as far as to make gazpacho spiked with a ton of sleeping pills. she never consummates the act, though, as everything and everyone in her periphery quickly spirals out of control. her friend candela is ringing her phone off the hook, frantic that she has just discovered that she had been unwittingly dating a shiite terrorist. pepa's lover's son and his fiancée show up in response to her ad to sublet her apartment and soon two and two are put together concerning everyone's respective associations with iván. a lawyer is consulted who turns out to be iván's latest paramour. phone repairmen, curious police, insane pistol-packing wives and hijacked bikers round out the supporting cast and pepa is shuttled back and forth between these loony episodes in the greatest, most ridiculous taxi ever dispatched. and what do you do when you have a houseful of guests you can't seem to get rid of? serve them gazpacho, that's what.

i think what i enjoyed about this film so much the first time around was its absolute manic energy. it's easy to get swept up in it. the film looked and behaved like nothing i had ever seen before at the time. its stylistic flourishes must have reminded me of a similar experience i had had with raising arizona (1987) just the year before. in much the same way the coen brothers redefined slapstick for my generation, that was what almodóvar did for me with relationship comedies here. it seemed incredibly audacious and unique. over two decades and literally hundreds of films later, though, i see a couple of things i didn't see the first time around. i see that in 1988 i was probably responding subconsciously to the fact that these mad characters were women. i hadn't seen an ensemble like this up to that point that revolved so fully around interesting, idiosyncratic women. i certainly hadn't come across many american films that delved, even zanily, into the sexual and emotional turmoil of a 43 year-old woman. i also see a fair bit more sadness in it now than i did then. i certainly understand regret much more now, hence it allows for a much more nuanced reading than i would have been capable of giving it so many years ago. as funny as it is, the catalyst for the comedy is heartbreak and trauma and when we get confirmation of pepa's delicate condition just before the credits roll we realize, once we stop laughing, that she is in a tough spot. a lot of complicated decisions lay before this character once everything has died down. the last thing i see is other movies reflected in this one. there are flashes of fellini, buñuel and hitchcock if you're being generous/de palma if you're not. pretty rich and ambitious for a slightly wacky black comedy about the pitfalls of modern romance.

once again, an excellent choice and it was a nice lesson in how much a great film has to offer just by holding its worth as you improve as a viewer.

tomorrow we are graced by a visit from a solid dude if ever there was one.

sing along. you know the words.

No comments:

Post a Comment