Written by: John White on April 30th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Spain, 1986/1987/1993/1995
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, Victoria Abril, Antonio Banderas, Nacho Martinez, Eusebio Poncela
DVD released: 5th June 2006
Approximate running time: 429 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (all films)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (all films)
DVD Release: Optimum
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £39.99
MATADOR: When a lame ex-matador meets his greatest fan, Maria, a celebrated defence lawyer, they discover that they both share a passion for murder and for the ultimate orgasm. Their respective victims are claimed by a young sexually confused bullfighting student after his attempts to prove his masculinity through a rape prove unsuccessful. Will the remorseless Comisaria of Police hunt down the killers before they can consummate their great passion?
Almodovar’s Matador begins with the ex-bullfighter masturbating to the bathtub murder in Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and moves on to him giving a lesson to his students punctuated by Maria’s seduction and murder of a young buck. From the very beginning Matador is about the thrill of seduction and moving in for the kill. The two central characters have found that the only real satisfaction comes from killing and their potency compares against the impotent student.
Matador is an audacious film that shows fucked up heterosexuals being the real deviants and plays it’s central chase of the gay cop chasing down the murderers against their eventual unstoppable release. Matador celebrates and satirizes a world of fashion, celebrity and unforgiving religion. The student’s mother believes his confession for the murders despite him fainting at the sight of blood, a fashion designer played by Almodovar incorporates vomit and scars in his creations and the psychologist assigned to the murder suspect cures him through seducing him!
Almodovar presents this comical world of twisted machismo in glorious Technicolor with exquisite framing and composition. The final showdown with the Police hunting down the murderers as an act of coitus interruptus is terrificly witty and Almodovar allows his killers their pleasure by inserting an eclipse to slow down the awestruck detective. Matador is sexy, witty and quite dark – a fine early Almodovar.
The Law of Desire: A director, Pablo, is in love with his indifferent lover, Juan. When Pablo is seduced by his stalker, Antonio, he starts to understand what it is to be loved when you don’t love back. Pablo tries to end things with Antonio and Antonio resolves that the only way to keep Pablo is to get rid of the object of his affection, Juan. When Juan’s body is found, Pablo realizes what Antonio has done and the Police believe the straight looking Antonio over the famously gay Pablo and suspect Pablo is the killer. After a car crash, Pablo learns his transsexual sister has found love only to realize who that lover is.
According to the introduction, Almodovar saw Matador as being about sex whilst the Law of Desire is a tale about love. Law of Desire is about a love triangle centring around Pablo who loves Juan but enjoys the love of his stalker, Antonio. Alongside this central theme, is the transsexual Tina who becomes a mother through deed and not biology and becomes the actress in her brother’s autobiographical works.
Law of Desire is a thoroughly satisfying film which forgoes a comic tone for a serious look at being loved too much and too little. Unsurprisingly, the film is often seen as autobiographical with Almodovar being associated with the stalked director Pablo. With this openly gay film, Almodovar made his Fatal Attraction but opted to make the homicidal stalker understandable and a straight looking man forced to understand his new sexual feelings.
Law of Desire is more of a serious work than Matador and is very in your face about it’s central relationships. It does have fine humour though with the wonderful opening with a gay porn movie being dubbed by two very unsexy actors. An interesting character piece to put alongside Matador and a sign of more satisfying work to come.
Kika: Nicolas Pierce is an expatriate American writer whose wife kills herself. Plagued by rumours of him murdering her he writes a book about how he could have done it. Several years later he returns to Spain and begins an affair with his son’s partner, Kika. The son, Ramon, is still feeling the loss of his mum and has kept her diaries. Ramon has seen a psychologist, Andrea, who became obsessed with him and now fronts a reality TV show where she confronts criminals. When Kika is raped by an escaped criminal porn actor she is taped and the video sent to Andrea’s show. Kika breaks up with Ramon and he wallows by reading his mum’s diaries when he makes a shocking discovery. Andrea also realizes the truth and resolves to film the Pierce family as she confronts them.
Kika is a return to broader satirical comedy for Almodovar such as his work on Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Here Almodovar mixes up serial killer thrillers, family comedies and a satire on the media. The result at times is tremendously tasteless and the viewer finds themselves laughing at things which seem impossible to find humour in.
Kika is strongest as a satire and it’s targets are mercilessly attacked. From stupid callous policemen to the media which delights in humiliation personified here by Andrea. Andrea is kitted out in amazing costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier where a camera unit is placed on her head much like a gun. Andrea says things like “You may have been raped, but that is no excuse to be rude” as she doorsteps Kika immediately after her ordeal. Similarly she claims an interview would be therapeutic and even offers the killer a way out after she has caught them as long as he gives her an exclusive. When Andrea dies her death is richly deserved and unlike the killers’ death not in anyone’s arms.
The comic moments are very broad and ditzy. They are occasionally questionable too, being invited to laugh at the physical comedy involved in a rapist being unable to stop mid act is something that I don’t know if I liked. Kika is undeniably provocative and best as a satire, later films like Live Flesh do the thriller more effectively and to be honest Peter Coyote is way out of his depth here.
Overall Kika is funny and savage but not a prime slice of Almodovar.
The Flower of My Secret: Leo is a writer of romantic fiction under a pseudonym but longs to be a proper writer. She is also estranged fro her military husband who she misses terribly despite the obvious failing of their relationship. When she is introduced to Angel, a newspaper editor, who likes her work under her real name she decides to no longer write the romantic novels and tells her publisher who threatens to expose her. All this is forgotten when her husband returns, but his stay is short and his departure is final. Leo tries to kill herself but is saved by Angel, she learns her husband was having an affair with a friend and goes to recuperate in her hometown with her mother. Will she find herself again or wallow in her lost love.
“You’re like a cow without a bell… lost, disoriented”
Flower of My Secret marked the beginning of Almodovar’s recent filmmaking which has seen him make great films like Live Flesh, Talk to Her and the classic All About My Mother. Centring more on the melodrama of the story of a rediscovery of identity, Flower of My Secret forsook outlandish bad taste and told the story of a woman becoming strong. A woman learning not to love the handsome and virile soldier but to find comfort in the arms of the gay compassionate editor, a woman rediscovering the land her family came from.
Flower of My Secret features an excellent central performance from Marisa Paredes as a woman so lost in her role of loving wife that she lives in the romantic cliché she writes. In the beginning of the film, she writes about wearing something of her husbands so she can feel close to him but after putting boots on he gave her she finds herself incapable of taking them off. She believes that he will return and rescue her but despite her efforts to be a perfect wife she fails – the food is cold and her sexiness turns to being demanding. The husband leaves for his lover and Leo tries to end her life.
Leo fails to kill herself because her mother rings her and demands to be taken back to their home village. With Angel’s help they recover there by sitting with the local women and remembering the local customs. When Leo returns to the city, she is strong enough to forget her husband and accept the loving friendship of Angel.
Flower is one of Almodovar’s best films. Superb use of colour- red for sexy and angry, blue for sad, green for reborn- great acting from all, and a terrific sense of movement from the busy city of protests to the rural town of weavers. Flower of My Secret is a tale of how women can become happier by being themselves and not what men want or what they think men want.
The Pedro Almodovar Collection volume 2 comes on four discs. The four movies are presented anamorphically. The transfers are best on the two later films, with Law Of Desire looking good and Matador looking a bit faded and grainy to be honest. All of the transfers are sharp and the colour balances are excellent. I did notice a brief moments’ combing in the Flower of My Secret in the scene with Paco, but otherwise that is an excellent print. The transfer and print on Matador is the weakest but it is a huge improvement on the previous R2 release from Tartan.
The sound on Flower and Matador is excellent but there is mild occasional crackling on the soundtrack for Law of Desire and some distortion in the voices and music of Kika. Overall the sound quality is very good. The subtitles are burnt in throughout.
The discs each boast an introduction from Jose Arroyo who is a little dismissive of Kika spending more effort on Law of Desire and Matador. The two later films come with cast and director interviews which are interesting if a little short.
Overall, this is a fine package for a very reasonable price. In the UK this is the first release of Flower of My Secret and Kika on DVD, it is also the first decent release of Matador and it is much appreciated. Flower of My Secret is a fantastic movie and the standout of the set but having copies of the other three should make most discerning film fans happy also.
For more information about Pedro Almodovar Collection Volume Two and other titles released by Optimum visit their website.