Almodóvar: Man of La Mancha

The Age  Melbourne, 1994, 2,100 words; adapted extracts  

4/cont. 

Pedro's knowledge of film is encyclopaedic. His masters are usually cited as Hitchcock, Buñuel, Visconti, Blake Edwards and Billy Wilder, who was, for much of his career, his "only living master". Of British cinema, he's a fan of Powell and Pressburger from the 1940s, the Ealing comedies, especially Alec Guinness as a comic actor, and David Lean. "He's achieved something even Bertolucci hasn't done," says Pedro, throwing his hands up in admiration. "Auteur epic cinema!" 

Almodóvar / ‘My real roots are in the neo-realist Spanish cinema of the late 1950s and early 1960s that I grew up with.’

He places himself, however, firmly within a Spanish tradition. He has been a fanatical cinema-goer ever since he was seven.

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"My real roots are in the neo-realist Spanish cinema of the late 1950s and early 1960s that I grew up with. It's comparable to Italian neo-realism, but less melodromatic, a little crueller, blacker in humour and with more social criticism. Berlanguer's El Verdugo [The Executioner], for instance, is a masterpiece. He deserves to be rated alongside Buñuel in world cinema, but he's almost unknown outside Spain."

Almodóvar recognises his luck in having started to make his films when Spain was in vogue and showing a new, post-modern face to the world. But that was the eighties. The big question for him is always where he will be going next.... "Rather as Karl Lagerfeld makes Chanel clothes, I'd love to have done an Almodóvar for Visconti," he laughs.

Another dream is to make a period film, although he admits the idea is scary. "The small details of everyday life of people who lived in another era are so difficult to do well. Though one could take an approach more like Jane Campion's in The Piano - very contemporary, with a powerful core element that's independent of period, the historical sets, costumes and so on."

There is one piece of Spanish history that he says intrigues him: the life of Juana la Loca, the Spanish queen who, after her husband's death, used to climb into the coffin to sleep with the dead body. "It coincides with everything I've done so far," comments Pedro. "A woman whose passion burns on even after death."

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