Pedro Almodóvar, director and writer, is highly responsible for the renaissance of Spanish cinema — with his irreverent and black humour alongside a tenaciously forward-looking perspective, he reformed the role and potential of a theatre. His feminist oeuvre, from Pepi, Luci, Bom to the recent Pain and Glory, maintains a progressive voice that has only recently been cultivated in cinema, a characteristic that can still be considered rare. And due to his obscure presence in India, this piece has listed all his films now available to stream online on Disney+ Hotstar.
Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988)
What begins as a film about an actress (Carmen Maura) coping with her breakup in a dishevelled and rash manner later turns into a sequence of events where her friend, embroiled with Shiite terrorists, is evading the law with the lovesick actor. Even with the colourful, vibrant palette of the film, sprinkled with different hues of red in every shot, Almodóvar’s comic drama is never overshadowed by peppiness. The humour is raunchy and farcical, all accentuated by an over the top plot.
Bad Education (2004)
Exploring the story of two gay men, the film delves into the effect of staunch Catholicism on their identity. A director, who scours through tabloids to develop screenplays, meets with his old, school friend who presents a script — chronicling his childhood history of sexual abuse, transsexualism, and romantic relationships. This murder mystery does not simply unravel truths about the fictional world, but unfurls real-world intersections between sexuality and trauma. The voluminous subplots of Bad Education are never overburdening and help add nuance to the film’s commentary.
A film that deals with a supposedly supernatural subject, is in fact, a story of unflinchingly bold women, a theme Almodóvar frequently dabbles in. The movie follows two sisters in parallel — one whose husband tried to rape their daughter and the other who believes that she is seeing the spirit of their late mother. We get the imagery of a wife forcing her dead husband in the freezer with great difficulty and a woman trapped in the trunk of a car with greying, shaggy hair — both meant to leave a strong impression on the viewer. The film never minces its words, it unabashedly confronts the challenges women everywhere face.
Live Flesh (1997)
A hot-headed, entitled delivery man Victor (Liberto Rabal) ambushes a junkie woman (Francesca Neri) after getting rejected by her. In the process, as two policemen show up, he mistakenly fires a gun injuring a young cop (Javier Bardem) — who, after going lame, marries the same woman, now running an orphanage. As Victor’s hyper-masculine tendencies of violence and sex fuel his actions, every character’s arc entangles more and more with one another. Liberto Rabal and Javier Bardem put on an immersive front and persona in this revenge saga.
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1989)
In the first half-hour, the story simmers in a film set. Almodóvar, at his own pace, protracts the scene on the set — we jump from a journalist’s interview of the director to the director’s disputes with the producer, and then to the actual scene being shot. And within seconds after that, Almodóvar ramps up the momentum of the film — where we see a patient (Antonio Banderas), discharged from a mental institution, barge into a B-movie actress’ (Victoria Abril) house after stalking her. All this so that she can reciprocate his love for her.
This bright, dazzling film is a perfect representation of Kika’s (Verónica Forqué) character, a vivacious chatter-box. In love with Ramon (Àlex Casanovas), whom she ostensibly revives, she enters a world of trouble and mayhem, especially after having an affair with his step-father, Nicholas (Peter Coyote). This is perhaps one of Almodóvar’s most audacious movies, a burlesque piece of filmography that surrounds itself with voyeurism, eroticism, and everything sexual. And while the film could potentially border on perverse, Almodóvar walks a tight rope making sure that the bawdy comedy is consciously never vile.
Talk To Her (2002)
When Benigno (Javier Cámara), a hospital nurse, tells his friend Marco (Darío Grandinetti) that he wants to marry his patient who has been in a coma for over four years, Marco says, “Your relationship is a monologue.” Almodóvar, here, delicately weaves a tale of loneliness, desire, and mortality. After Marco’s girlfriend’s bullfight goes awry, she becomes comatose, too. And as Benigno nurses his patient, the two develop a bond as they tend for the women they care about. The film sways between different forms of love — from tender, unconditional affection to obsession and mania.
All About My Mother (1999)
Providing insight into the underbellies of Madrid and Barcelona, All About My Mother addresses death and diseases as well as motherhood and intimacy. This morbid tale begins when a single mother Manuela (Cecilia Roth) loses her son to an accident and later looks after her friend (Penélope Cruz) pregnant by her transvestite ex-husband. But this melodramatic narrative, in the end, is a satisfying story about femininity and companionship. Arguably one of Almodóvar’s masterpieces, his Academy Award-winning film is rife with references from All About Eve, A Streetcar Named Desire and Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons — all a testament to his filmmaking prowess.