Posted on December 29 at 14.03, 2004 by The occasional blogger
Eager to refresh and refine my knowledge of one of Europeâ€™s most acclaimed directors, I made my way down to South Bank last night, where the NFT is currently running a special on Almodovar.
Playing in NFT1 was Almodovarâ€™s 1988 sweet and funny farce about Pepa, a 40 something actress who, dumped by her boyfriend, tries to understand why and in the process, manages to rediscover her dignity and pride.
I wasnâ€™t quite sure what to expect from this film when I sat down in my fairly usual â€˜middle middleâ€™ seat in NFT1. In attendance was a seemingly mixed crowd, but, upon further inspection, actually quite strongly skewed towards the older generation. This surprised me initially as Almodovarâ€™s recent films have tackled subject matters, that, one would think, might tend to resonate better with a younger generation for whom homosexuality is becoming as mainstream as getting your tongue or belly button pierced. But I suppose this younger generation doesnâ€™t hang out at the National Film Theatre on Wednesday nights, an occupation reserved mostly for geeks, intellectuals and the older generation.
As the film started, it became immediately clear why a showing of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown had attracted the kind of crowd it did on this fairly chilly spring evening. Women is a witty farce in the tradition of Hollywood comedies of old, a very accessible work that can draw giggles and laughter from young and old alike. It has none of the intensity of Almodovarâ€™s recent works but still showcases the directorâ€™s wit and talent for sharp dialogues, his love of quirky characters and his use of saturated colours to create beautifully vibrant scenes that, in spite of their artificial appearances, serve to draw the audiences into the marvellous worlds that he creates for them.
For the first time in a while, my 2 hours at the NFT were pure delight and escapism, not laborious intellectual work, however enjoyable that may be at times. Women is an easy, light and approachable film, but nevertheless, clearly the work of a master. The acting, while it can seem forced at times, works perfectly for the narrative. Even a young Banderas, who would later prove to be more looks than talent, somehow seems to fit perfectly here as the son of a crazy women and her adulterous husband. As with Tie me Up, Tie me Down, it is clear that Women would have been far less effective in the hands of a different director. Almodovar has a remarkable ability to turn the simplest subject matters and the silliest situations (which at every moment threaten to go overboard and fall into the depths of the ridiculous – yet, somehow, they never do) into coherent, funny and beautiful stories and experiences.