Monday, 30 July 2012

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Pedro Almodovar is one of my favourite filmmakers, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is one of his best and best-loved films. I went to see it this weekend at GOMA, as part of their program celebrating Spanish cinema, and it was a great way to spend Sunday afternoon.

SBS sums up the plot quite succintly:

High atop a posh Spanish penthouse, three women have come to the end of their mental ropes: Pepa (Carmen Maura) teeters around atop her stilettoes as she obsesses over Iván (Fernando Guillén), the lover who just jilted her over the answering machine; her neurotic best friend Candela (María Barranco) seeks refuge at Pepa's place because she recently realised her lover is a Shiite terrorist; and Iván's ex-wife Lucía (Julieta Serrano) was just released from a 20-year stint in a mental institution. One of them is about to commit murder unless the other half-crazed femmes fatales can stop her.

Filmed in the 80s, it's full of bright colours, dramatic moments, fantastically tacky clothes, and a plot that belongs in a telenovela. It's also an oscar-nominated masterpiece of cinematography, and the film that brought Almodovar to international attention. The cast is fantastic; Carmen Maura stars alongside a raft of kooky and brilliant Spanish actors, including a very young Antonio Banderas and the fabulous Rossy de Palma. Like a lot of Almodovar's work, the film is a charismatic blend of heartbreak and comedy, pulled off in a flamboyantly crazy yet simultaneously genuine and earnest style.

The whole film is engaging, warm and entertaining as hell. It's going to be screened one more time at GOMA, on Friday 10 August. GOMA Cinemateque is screening many of Almodovar's other films as well, and if you've never seen any of his work, I cannot recommend his films enough. I hope to make it to a few more myself.

If I had to make one criticism, it would probably be of the Cinematheque itself, and the film quality and sound. They seemed to use the original reels when they show this kind of retrospective. Perhaps it's for artistic reasons, perhaps they have no choice when it comes to screeners, but it results in an occasionally patchy experience. Otherwise, the GOMA cinemas are definitely worth a shot, for their unique programs alone. (If it helps, the price of tickets is actually cheaper than most mainstream cinemas, so there's that, too!)

Pedro Almodovar at GOMA

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