Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! / ¡Átame! (1990)

February 6, 2009

This, the third Almodóvar film I have seen, is much less intricately-plotted and challenging than either Talk To Her / Hable Con Ella or All About My Mother / Todo Sobre Mi Madre.  This is a very simple story of a troubled youth who kidnaps a young actress with the intention that she should get to know him and fall in love with him.  The kidnap victim does indeed ‘fall in love’ with her kidnapper, setting up a happy ending which feels wrong.  Whilst she may or may not be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the fact remains that for me it is implausible and lends the movie a flimsiness with the inevitable consequence that it cannot endow the gravitas the subject deserves.

The simple narrative- with very little in the way of a back-story or subplots- is used as a vehicle for the exploration of male/female relationships.  Throughout the film, female characters refer to independence as onerous and undesirable (“Remember freedom means solitude”; “Are you alone?” “yes, like a dog”) and- in the Movie Director’s wife- one character displays tolerance of his humiliating and unpleasant behaviour with stoicism and resignation.  In contrast, only one male perspective is explored at all (the kidnapper Ricky, played well by Antonio Banderas) and this shows love and being in a relationship as a necessity and something to be achieved at all costs.

As in Talk To Her (where a rape scene is filmed with tenderness) a crime, here a kidnap, is shown as a justifiable and romantic act- which raises moral questions about passion, respect, compatibility and patriarchal dominance for the viewer to take away and consider.  This is an extreme situation used to place every day life under the microscope.  The imprisonment and subjugation of Marina (Victoria Abril) represents everyday suburban relationships- Marina’s sister Lola (Loles León) asks “how can you love someone who ties you up?  Do you think that’s normal?“. The concept of normality is examined throughout- coming from an orphanage and psychiatric institution, Ricky’s only ambition is to lead a normal ‘wife and 2.4 children’ life- but his method of doing so is utterly abnormal.  Having been- to some extent- incarcerated from the age of three, does he see the kidnap of Marina as normal, or just a means to achieve a specific end?

This, however, is all an interesting consideration of these issues, rather than the deep exploration that Almodóvar’s later works would become.  Nicely acted, nicley directed, well paced but slight- 6/10.

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All About My Mother / Todo sobre mi madre (1999)

January 6, 2009

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve begun recording these thoughts for myself is that it is far easier to criticise than praise.  For ‘All About My Mother’ I could simply write “Astonishing. 9/10”.  This is a film that looks at women on the margins of ‘normal’ life and speaks with depth and interest about motherhood and pretence and expectations and forgiveness and stoicism and compassion and gender and love and sin and theatricality and human frailty and the arts and inspiration and mortality and sexuality and sensuality.

Almodóvar relates stories of interest that are grounded in reality but have an emotional and intellectual depth which invites repeated viewings.  Yes, his films look great, yes they have a warmth and human atmosphere, yes he gets great performances from his performers and yes he tells great stories, but his films go beyond all of that.  They are all of those things and they are theses on the human condition in addition.  Right now I can’t think of anyone else in cinema today who challenges and conspires with me as a viewer to anywhere near the same degree.  I think he is amazing.

One other thing I’ve noticed about writing these notes is that they channel my thinking about what I’ve seen and as I write them I often adjust my rating as a result.  Usually, the score goes down as I focus upon the flaws in what I’ve seen.  All About My Mother – 10/10.