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Pedro Almodovar in a Nutshell

Pedro Almodovar in a Nutshell

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Published by: Caty on Jan 31, 2010
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06/30/2012

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Almodovar… In a Nutshell!
Many of you will need no introduction to the work and world of Pedro Almodovar. As the most successful Spanish director since Luis Bunuel, the name now connotes a whole evolution incinematic achievement. For those who aren’t familiar with hiswork let me introduce you this exceptional artiste. Perhaps themost celebrated European filmmaker of the past 30 years, his work’s relevancetranscends the medium of movies through its power and beauty.From his debut feature length in 1980 
to2009’s
 Broken Embraces
, his work is still fresh andexciting to watch, but even more significantly itcontinues to have social relevance and impact. Aswe shall see his movies invite the audience into anew perception of the world, the world of anAlmodovar movie, where traditional views aretested and new ideals are formed.His films are entertaining melodramatic stories, often with themes of identity, desire,religion and family running through. An Almodovar film is easily recognisablethrough this auteur’s signature use of bright, bold colour, irreverent humour, unusualcharacters and popular Spanish music. He repeatedly casts the same actors in many of his films, Turing young unknowns such as Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz intohousehold names. His work enjoys international recognition as he has won multipleawards spanning over his 30 years of success in the industry!
Some of his most famous films include
:
 Broken Embraces
(2009)
Volver 
(2006)
Talk to Her 
(2002)
 All About My Mother 
(1999)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
(1989)
 Law of Desire
(1987)
What Have I Done to Deserve This?
(1984)
 
Almodovar, is definitely one European director worth watching. Whilst his films areremarkable for their skilled direction and production, and highly enjoyable for their entertaining plot lines, his real impact stems from the fact that he has succeeded in pushing the boundaries. An Almodovar film is not simply another movie made tomake money. His work holds more significance as he continually strives to shatter thelimits of convention and broaden the minds of his audience. This is particularlyevident in his unusual approach to sex and gender.
From Fascism to Freedom!
Every society has an ideology at the base of itsstructure from which general public opinion andassumptions are formed. The prevailing ideology isusually invisible to most people within the societywho unknowingly adhere to it. Alternative opinionsthat stray from the norm stand out boldly againstsuch a neutral invisible background of conformity,and so are seen as radical. The work of Almodovar is an example of such a radical breakthrough fromthe repressive ideology of Franco Spain society which preceded it.General Franco ruled over Spain for almost forty years; during which time his waywas the only way, his beliefs were to be his people’s beliefs, his opinion—the Spanishopinion. Through censorship and propaganda, he manipulated the views of the people.Years of this imposition of opinion on a nation left Spain set in its ways and stilladhering to Franco’s ideologies even after his eventual resignation from power in1974 and his death a few months later.In 1977 censorship laws in Spain were abolished and by 1980, with Almodovar’sdebut feature length film
 Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap
, radicalchange and a fresh feeling of liberation of thought was beginning to infringe uponSpanish society. Creative free-thinkers seized this opportunity in the breakdown of censorship to make their views and beliefs known. Almodovar was a majocontributor in La Movida Madrilena, a cultural renaissance that sought to bring about transformation by challenging the traditional views of the preceding era. As ahomosexual, issues of gender and sexuality, which had been heavily repressed duringFranco’s rule, were at the forefront of his agenda.
Subverting the Subject of the Sexes
The question of gender is central to many of his films, and through his skilledmethodology as a director, he succeeds in making a worldwide audience, not justSpanish, challenge some of their previously held assumptions on the subject. Gender and sexuality is very much an individual trait, varying from person to person.Almodovar highlights this fact. During Franco’s dictatorship, gender was a fixednotion, stable and static. Men were men and women were women. In his moviesAlmodovar subverts all previously held ideas about the notion of normality. He makeswhat is abnormal seem normal and acceptable, whilst questioning what is considerednormal by presenting it as unappealing and repressive.
 
Macho Men
Many of the male characters in his films are often rooted in the melodramatic clichésof men. They are ‘normal’, stable‘vanilla’. They are bullfighters, detectives, priests, husbands, prisoners and sons, dominated by the women in their lives. Thesestraight ‘men as men’ characters in his films are often presented in a negative light asthey are traditional and boring in comparison to the ‘queer’ men, that feature heavilyin his movies, with their hybrid and unusual sexualities.
Queers & Queens
These characters are far from vanilla (more Neapolitan as ice-cream flavours go!)They are extravagant and interesting but as such face many challenges in society anddifficulties in their lives. Almodovar’s films highlight the fact that many still consider homosexuals and trans-gendered individuals to be strange or flawed. This is shown to be a narrow-minded view of gender and it is overtly challenged. These characters of varying, unusual sexual identities are not depicted as unnatural monsters (like other characters often view them), but rather the most sympathetic and endearing personalities. Not only does he push the boundaries within the characters themselves, he further questions gender roles and the flexibility of the idea of gender identity in his castingtechniques. For example, in 
, the role of transsexual, Tina, is played byfemale actress Carmen Maura, whilst the role of a female character, Ada, is played byBibi Andersson, a well known Spanish transsexual. The fact that this transfer of gender roles often goes unnoticed highlights Almodovar’s view that it should gounnoticed. What he is saying is that the need for distinction between sex and gender,as traditionally applied, is no longer needed within the diversity of contemporarysociety.
The Fabulous Female
Almodovar has often been termed a women’s director as the female characters aregenerally at the heart of his brilliance; they appear to transcend the gender boundariesof society and identity within his stories. Penelope Cruz has four times played hisstrong female lead and talks about her experiences of working with ‘Pedro’ inaninterview with Collider.com.
“He really knows women, to the smallest detail. He can really do an x-ray of us. And, especially if he really knows you,like he knows me, he even knows what  I’m thinking.../Every time he has givenme a script, I’ve been really blown awayby having that in my hands, and having that opportunity. The four charactersthat I have played with Pedro could not be more different from each other, and  from what I am as a woman…/In the first one (Live Flesh), I was a prostitute

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