Almodovar is one of the few directors whose
new theatrical release would have a lot of people talking, his fanbase
is one of broad spectrums and demographics. His work is always
tantalising and thought-provoking, he is one of the few directors who
can get away with having sex scenes in his films so gratutiously and
Since his debut in 1980 to the international breakthrough of 'Women on
the Verge...' in 1988 to his worldwide acclaim of 'All About My Mother'
in 1999; Almodovar has always worked with questions of identity be they
religious, sexual or political. Brought up in Madrid under the
Franco regime, Almodovar saw his identity in film and theatre bringing
an outsider voice to the mainstream. He worked quietly but with a
personality he was seen as the el nino of the Spanish reactionary group
following Franco's death in 1976.
His work with some of Spain's most famous female actresses especially
Carmen Maura meant he was seen as a totem pole of female rights and
equality culminating in works containing characters who look for a new
identity and when the opportunity arises to change they take it as a
chance to change.
Almodovar's first film since the critical success of Volver, sees him
again working with his new muse Penelope Cruz fresh off of her Oscar
winning turn in Vicky Christina Barcelona. The story revolves around
Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar) who is now Harry Caine, a blind writer of
film scripts in the present day but has a past that comes back to him
in the form of Ray X () a would be filmmaker who wants to tell a story
not unfamiliar to Harry.
Interspersed with frequent flashbacks to the making of the movie that
led to Mateo's accident resulting in his blindness, we learn of a bad
relationship with Ernesto, the financier of the film and the resultant
jealousy between the two men over the luminous Lena (Cruz) and her
importance of the role.
Like most flashback roles in film it is a memory of a character, in
this case Lena through Harry's memory of her and the reason I use the
word luminous, is that Lena is a spirit throughout the film floating
and appearing in several memorable personas as famous movie stars -
Hepburn, Monroe, Loren (ironic as they both appear in the recently
released 'Nine') - so becoming a construct of man's fantasies and
Almodovar in his later years has become accustomed to paying his
significant admiration for Alfred Hitchcock. In 'Bad Education' you had
the subvertive religious undertones mixed with sexual identity; here we
are treated to a version of 'Vertigo' but also Almodovar's fondness of
classical Hollywood cinema most likely the melodramatic work of Douglas
Sirk, but especially the desire of the female subject and this same
female as muse; the director constructing this woman as his ideal; the
subject of possession (in this case between two men) and the jealousy
and vengeance it creates; and the folly/novelty of filmmaking
As we approach the car crash in which Mateo will lose his sight and
thus take his first steps into the parallel darkness as Harry Caine -
we are treated to orchestral flourishes not too dissimilar to Bernard
Herrmann's work on 'Vertigo' (Alberto Iglesias takes the baton here)
and the first time collaboration with cinematographer Rodrigo Pireto
(Amores Perros, 21 Grams) has enhanced Almodovar's rich colour scheme
even further, at one point Homar wears a red shirt so red in its
boldness that you feel it will bleed off the screen and into your lap.
Cruz (in her fourth Almodovar film) is dazzling in a role which can be
difficult, switching from persona to persona and time frame to time
frame and it is telling that her character, Lena is the only person who
actually knows what she wants to be and is determined to live her life
by her choosing. Even though other forces want to pick for her.
Almodovar remains one of the few directors who can grip an audience
with this subject matter that takes a while to bear fruit; it may be
his personality, his gift of gaining fine performances from his actors
or maybe we all like a little bit of drama in our life. And as Mateo
Blanco discovers, not everything is black and white, especially in the
technicolour world of Almodovar.