Almodovar: What Makes Pedro Run? Part Two

Almodovar was one of the most refreshing voices of the 1980s, a child prodigy of the New Spain. His generation was determined to throwing out the country’s past, culture, values, even cinema. Indeed, Almodovar’s thematic and visual flamboyance and moral relativism are by-products of Spanish culture under the repressive regime of General Franco. He has shown particular emotional and intellectual affinity with the confusions, anxieties, and desires of young people who came of age in Spain after Franco’s death in 1975.

Almodovar also benefited from the cinematic scenes of Spain and Europe. It’s not a coincidence that he achieved international fame and a cult status when Spanish cinema was at low ebb. In the early 1980s, Spanish films amounted to less than one fifth of an ever-shrinking domestic market. His appearance signaled a new wave in a national cinema, which was beginning to undergo significant changes after Franco’s death.

Almodovar was the most original and pulpy filmmaker of world cinema of the 1980s. In addition to pumping new blood into Spanish film. Almodovar has also created a new style that has been imitated around the world.

Almodovar’s mode is satiric, generous to a fault, and free of judgment and moralizing. Openly gay, he has created characters whose sexuality is fluid, be they heterosexuals, homosexuals, transsexuals, or bisexuals. As a director, he has devoted his work to the exploration of sexual confusions and the redemption power of romantic love, a notion he taken from Hitchcock, who he credits as a major influence on his work and his career.

Unlike the other filmmakers in this book, such as Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes, who were born to middle-class parents, Almodovar, like Terence Davies, is a product of the working class—and a rural one at that. Lacking formal education, he is an autodidact, just like John Waters, but unlike the other directors, who are graduates of film or art schools.

His early films–caustic, irreverent, shocking comedies–made him a favorite in the international art-house cinema. His authorial voice represented idiosyncratic themes, while revealing the sexual chaos that lies beneath “normal life.”

With the exception of “Talk to Her,” a 2003 feature of his later career, in which the two protagonists are men (and straight men at that), and “Bad Education,” there are not many father figures in his films–sometimes there are no men at all. And if there are men, they are placed in the periphery. Moreover, the few prevailing males are one-dimensional, treated as disposable objects, to be killed or to be rid of by women, often violently.

In contrast, the female characters are finely nuanced and complex in terms of motivation, psychology, and conduct. Almodovar celebrates women, because, as he has said time and again, “they are the one who “run the whole gamut.” What’s consistently striking about his oeuvre is the indefatigable and incorrigible optimism of Almodovar’s heroines, despite the odds inherent in their existence.

Almodovar believes that women are closer to their emotions than men, that they are more concerned and more willing to be embarrassed and undignified in their pursuit of love and sex, which for him are the highest goals. But however strong, women need men (if only for sex), which makes them more vulnerable and dependent on men.

Refusing to take moral stance against any issue, Almodovar is a courageously non-judgmental director. His mise en scene is stylized and sometimes theatrical, but it is firmly grounded in strong visual energy and the ability to change tone from scene to scene, and often within the same scene.