Too often today cinema is laced with irrelevant narratives and ephemeral surprises, the dramatic image and true essence of the story is denigrated by CGI and other diluting confectionary. The joy of film is that it takes us into another world, it holds up a mirror to our inner-selves, moves us in ways nothing else on this earth can. The greats of cinema, such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini etc knew this and that is why their films still surprise and enchant us all these years later. In a world that is becoming increasingly stagnant, culturally, the only filmmaker in the 21st century to keep these set of ideals close to his heart is Pedro Almodóvar.
His films are a celebration of both the outré and the everyday, which explore diverse themes such as family, desire, homosexuality etc, Pedro Almodóvar has adapted the cinematic language first used by the likes of Fellini, Hitchcock and Fassbinder, to create a style all of his own, rich in colour and sophistication. There is much within Almodóvar's ebullient oeuvre that echoes the greats of cinemas past, none more so than Ingmar Bergman; for example, as Bergman had a love of theatre and wanted to emulate that unique theatrical expression, in the hope of transforming the moving image into a more respected art form, so too do we see the same process undertaken by Almodóvar. He is a genius, whose films have become an integral part of popular culture in the late 20th and early 21st century, a vibrant repository of our desires and fears, forever tipping the artistic boundaries.
Born in the small town of Calzada de Calatrava in 1949, Almodóvar grew up during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, whose rigid formula of social and cultural conservatism lay heavy across Spain like a miasma. A child of strong character yet of a solitary and observational nature, in an interview with the critic Frederic Strauss, Almodóvar said "children develop great strength in solitude; they can also become very neurotic. Luckily, that wasn't the case with me. I'm sure of that because I was a very good observer of other people's lives, and a happy one, pleased with what I saw. But always an observer, never a participant."
His teenage years as well as adolescence proved to be a time of self discovery and artistic blossoming; his atavistic love for the arts, which were previously a mercurial fascination, began to form into a more functional passion, and his goals for a future career as a filmmaker were now firmly set. As the years progressed he feathered his nest of cultural influences, by devouring copious amounts of television, literature, film, music and theatre.
From his first feature film Pepi, Luci, Bom in 1980, a smorgasbord of pure hedonism, which gave audience's a taste of the Madrid punk scene, in all its destructive glory. Almodóvar immediately reinvigorated the fading art of cinematic experimentation and risk-taking, giving a clarion call for audiences to sit up and pay attention. To Almodóvar film is the culmination of all mans artistic and creative endeavours, of art, literature, theatre and so on, he is acutely aware of the tremendous power that film has on the public consciousness, more importantly he is reverential to those icons of the past, to the likes of Marco Ferreri, Marilyn Monroe, Luis Buñel, Marlene Dietrich et al. His unashamed love for entertainment and popular culture has proved felicitous in, not only, placing him in the vanguard of contemporary filmmakers, but moulding him into a master story teller, who possesses the ability to touch our deepest emotions. With films that do not drag at a funereal pace, neither surge ahead at break-neck speed, leaving the mind dizzy and anaesthetic, but are instead beautifully structured pieces of art.
Almodóvar's approach to dialogue, imagery and so on has played a part in enhancing the cinematic experience; to sit through an Almodóvar film is never exhausting, because there are so many facets, his level of concentration and near obsession over his subject makes for a feast of visual intoxication. Another aspect to Almodóvar's success and worthiness to the title of the king of cinema is his unflinching confidence in not restricting himself to one specific audience, with each film Almodóvar has explored and developed. In Law of Desire (1986) he dealt with homosexuality and the tentative subject of transvestism, exploring the interplay between love and sexual desire, skip forward to The Skin I Live In (2011) and we see a much deeper level of thematic exploration, dealing with the fear of death and the psychological dangers of macabre obsessions.
With creativity and humour Almodóvar continues to surpass expectations, creating provocative and thought provoking films that dually entertain and intrigue us. He will forever be a paragon of world cinema.
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