'I'm So Excited' Director Pedro Almodovar Explains Why He's Returned To Comedic Roots, But It's A Serious Business

'Comedy Requires Much More Precision'

'I'm So Excited' finds director Pedro Almodovar returning to his comedic roots.

When a moment's negligence endangers a flight en route to Mexico City, three wildly flamboyant flight attendants (Carlos Areces, Raúl Arévalo and Javier Cámara) endeavour to keep the passengers happy and in the dark until they can find a solution.

The economy class has been put to sleep for their own comfort, but the business class, which includes a shady Spanish banker, a clairvoyant virgin, an actor and a mysterious security agent, proves more difficult to subdue. When the news of impending danger finally spills, it produces a somewhat unexpected reaction. Rather than panic, a frenzied torrent of over-the-top and uproariously funny debauchery ensues. Liberated by the prospect of death, the passengers dispose of all their inhibitions and dive headfirst into a hedonistic haze.

Showcasing the celebrated Spanish auteur at his camp best, I'm So Excited also features charming cameos by Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz as a klutzy husband and wife duo. Almodóvar's comedy is rife with symbolism and metaphor aligned with present-day Spain, but the film is entertainment at its best, first and foremost.

Pedro Almodovar sat down with our interviewer (and a translator), and revealed why he was ready to return to the comedy that made his name... but it's a very serious business, as he explains...

"I actually thought that making this film would be a much lighter experience for me than the films I've been making. But that was actually silly to think that. It wasn't like that at all. Why should I ever think that? Because in fact comedy is perhaps one of the most difficult genres of films that you can make because it requires much more precision. It's much tougher to make. And for me, in fact, that whole process of filming was a process where I had to have eyes on everything. I had to have eyes in the back of my head to watch what was going on, but in fact the film itself was a celebration for all of us. It was a joy for all of us to make, particularly because it took me back to the tone of the first films that I made when I started off my career: The comedies.

"For the actors themselves, it was just party day after day during filming. That made for a good result at the end of the day. Actually, the filming itself was uncomfortable in the sense you're talking about a tiny little space, aren't you, where everything is being filmed, you had a lot of actors and a lot of interactions going on between the actors themselves. And that for me was new to have to shoot in such a small space with so many actors. And so everything was completely rehearsed. It was more than rehearsed, it was choreographed. It wasn't just the dance sequences that were choreographed. All of the actions themselves were previously choreographed. They were rehearsed months in advance before we actually got into the filming, which was done in that tiny space.

"At the beginning what I did have in my head, certainly, was the typical American screwball comedy. And those screwball comedies are actually very much based on the French theatrical tradition where you've just got one single space, one single set, and everything takes place there. So in a way that was the comedy genre that was in my mind when I started this.

"But of course...And also, this is a movie based in words. I mean, words are very important for--words have their actions in the movie. And also you have this red curtain...I put it there because they have to separate the spaces, their rooms. But also just to remind... theatre."

You mentioned the spirit of the eighties in your earlier comedies. It's also interesting that although it's an ensemble piece your three leads are all sort of gay men.

"The fact that there are more homosexuals is part of the casting of my previous films. It's not the celebration of homosexuality itself, it's more to do with the genre itself, and the fact that this is comedy, a screwball comedy. You're doing this crazy comedy and it's set inside a plane where the obvious thing is to make the three flight attendants your main characters there as flamboyant as you can make them. Because that's the way to get the best out of the comicness of the situation and t he genre that you're working with. Yes, I've always had homosexuals in my films before, but perhaps not so much with so much over-feminine characteristics as these ones in particular. But it's more to do with the celebration of explosion of freedoms that we gained back in the 1980s than homosexuality itself. Really, there's also a celebration of feelings. It's about a celebration of sexuality itself, sexuality expressed by the bisexuals, by the heterosexuals, by the homosexuals, by the virgins and the non-virgins!"

I feel like there's quite a lot of stuff that I miss as a British person in terms of what sort of comments you're making about Spain itself. Is that something you can sort of read into the characters you created for the business class?

"You're right all of those characters are connected to Spain's society right now.

"The economic class is completely drugged, as you know.

"The whole of the economy class is drugged. I mean, that's actually an abuse of power by the pilots themselves.

"Of course, this is escapist comedy. But you don't really need to know the details of what's going on in Spain to really understand that what I'm doing here is linking it up with what's happening in Spain through this metaphor. The film is a metaphor really. It's about the uncertainty that's facing us all in Spain. The fact that you've got the plane that's going around and around in circles, not even circles, it's an elliptical route. No one knows when they're going to be able to land. They know that they have to land somewhere. There's going to be an emergency landing; they don't know how dangerous it's going to be. They need a runway, they don't know when they're going to find this runway. This is direct metaphor for what's actually happening here in Spain. We know, too, that there'll have to be a landing. There's a happy ending in the film, of course, but we don't know if that's going to be the case here in Spain. It's a really serious situation here for us. Somewhere there has to be a runway. Where is it? We know it exists, but we don't know when people are going to be able to take us to it or who's going to be piloting the plane. We don't know what dangers are entailed with this emergency landing. Actually, we think perhaps they're even taking us in the wrong direction towards this runway. So it's not just the fact that you've got this corrupt bankrupt on the plane, who's also representing part of Spanish society. There are more things to that. The whole airport itself is ghostly, the empty airport."

One thing that really marks out your characters, are really unusual combinations of people fall in love. And also, sexuality is very fluid. So I wonder what you think about that. Is sexuality fluid in life?

Translator: "Yes, it's certainly what I've tried to reflect in my films. But it's not really a theory that I have about sexuality being fluid. It's something that I see as much more natural than that. Of course, I'm portraying a world of fiction as well in my films, but it's also my world. It's the world that I see and the world that I live in. For me sexuality is not a problem. I understand that it might be, it could be in some cases for some people. But I don't see it as that. And if I have homosexuals in the film, it's not because I'm saying there is a problem with homosexuality, it's simply one of the characteristics or the personality of one of the characters in the film. It's just the most natural way that I've found to tell the stories that are not absolutely true, realistic stories of the way reality is, of course.

"So what I'm saying is of course sexuality can lead to problems, there can be problems in relationships and with passion and with love, etc. but I'm not treating homosexuality or bisexuality as a problem at all. Although there may, of course, be problems related to that. And looking back at that, I don't think I ever took a deliberate intellectual decision to portray sexuality this way in my films. It's much more intuitive than that. But if I was young today, starting out as a director, I think I probably would.

'I'm So Excited' is available on Blu-Ray/DVD from 26 August. Watch the trailer below...

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