Almodovar: A true auteur.
If I had to pick my favorite living film director of the moment I would have to say that it is Pedro Almodovar, Spain’s wunderkind maker of such films as: Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), Bad Education (2004) And Broken Embraces (2009). I have just seen his latest release The Skin I Live in (2011). And although it is not my favorite of his works, Talk to her (2002 is, the film still possesses many of his wonders. An offbeat and unusual story, ravishing, sumptuous camera work, committed acting and the creation of yet another vest pocket view into what can be only called Almodovar’s world.
But the one aspect of his films that I am always awed by is the wonderful and all encompassing sweep of his narratives. They generally start out by taking you down a broad somewhat familiar looking highway but then as soon as you become sure of the journey you’re taken off onto a side road that is both unfamiliar and strange that could lead you into the mountains or the sea. But once you get to one or the other you’re suddenly whisked in another direction that takes you down a narrow dirt road past some heavy growth of underbrush that doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere. But then just by this time you’re sure that you’re lost the story will take you up a small hill that leads back to the main highway and home. I can’t think of any other living filmmaker/ director whose narratives can involve and confuse in such a satisfying manner. At the moment he is (to me) the only director whose films have the discursive complexity of a good novel. Most seriously made films today are primarily character driven and deal with a single idea or plot that is introduced, intensified and then resolved in one way or another. But with the works of Almodovar we get more than that. We get outrageous characters being true to themselves, a mise en scene that’s frequently quite insane and a narrative full of multiple arteries which more often than not take us to places we’ve never been before. Or takes us to a familiar place via an unusual route.
It is for this reason that I think of Almodovar as a literary director. But literary but in a cinematic way. His films are so visually conceived that they can be viewed without subtitles and the complexity of their stories is still manifest. This proves to me that they are true cinematic creations unto themselves because they are not so married to the written or spoken word that they would be lost or worst incomprehensible without them.
Another aspect of Almodovar’s work that I truly appreciate is the generosity of spirit and whole hearted compassion his films display toward social/sexual outsiders. In this he reminds me of Tennessee Williams’ whose works, despite their central plots, were directly and indirectly pleas for tolerance and acceptance of others whose personal orientations were/are different to ours. But mostly I appreciate Almodovar because he is a filmmaker with a vision that is uniquely his. You can’t look at an Almodovar film and think that you’re looking at the work of some other filmmaker. His DNA is too firmly imbedded in them. Added to that at the moment he is a confident, completely assured filmmaker working at the top of his powers, utilizing the tools of his medium in masterful ways. In other words he is a true auteur in the original sense of that often misused and misunderstood appellation.
If you’re seriously interested in cinema and you haven’t experienced a film by Almodovar this is the time to give one a try. I think that you will be happy you did.