Pedro Almodovar flies high with his new film comedy
Jane Cornwell talks Spain, sex and politics with Pedro Almodovar, who pushes new boundaries with his latest work
AVING watched Pedro Almodovar’s screwball plane-set comedy I’m So Excited! the day before I fly from London to Madrid to meet him, I’m anxious. Will the landing gear jam, as it does in the film, forcing us to circle aimlessly in the air? Have the drinks in economy been spiked with a sedative? Is there an orgy going on in business class?
Will three male flight attendants burst out from behind a curtain to lip-sync and do jazz hands to the dance-pop classic the movie is named after? That part I’m rather hoping for.
‘‘ These people think their lives are about to end,’’ the Oscar-winning Spanish director, 63, will tell me later. ‘‘ So this is their way of combating uncertainty. Of being free.’’
The people at the front of the plane, that is. While the crew and their elite passengers — a psychic virgin, a corrupt banker, a famous actor, a mysterious Mexican, a big-time dominatrix and two newlyweds — are all drinking, confessing and having mescaline-fuelled sex, everyone in economy class is out cold.
A crash landing is imminent, but with the pilot and co-pilot unzipping in the cockpit and the attendants up and down on their knees in the loo, exactly who is in charge and where they’ll end up is debatable.
I’m So Excited! has divided audiences in Britain and Europe, where it has been out for several months. While many have welcomed the film as a filthy, fun-filled return to the Almodovar of yore, the provocateur behind subversive 1980s romps such as Labyrinth of Passions, What Have I Done to Deserve This? and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, others say he’s lost the plot, if indeed the movie ever had one.
‘‘ Those who view the director as a suave master of ceremonies may look on in dismay and even disbelief,’’ said The New Yorker. ‘‘ Infantile,’’ declared Carlos Boyero, of Spanish newspaper El Pais, a critic whose bitchy reviews of Almodovar films are legendary. ‘‘ Loved it,’’ says a Spanish airline steward I chat to in the galley. ‘‘ I mean, it’s Almodovar,’’ he adds.
I’m So Excited! is certainly a radical departure from 2011’s The Skin I Live In, a medical thriller that reunited Antonio Banderas with the director who catapulted him to stardom in 1988’s Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Both Banderas and Penelope Cruz — a onetime Almodovar muse nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in 2006’s Volver — make cameos as ground crew in this, Almodovar’s 19th film.
The likes of Javier Camara ( Talk to Her), Cecilia Roth ( All About My Mother) and Lola Duenas ( Volver) feature in an ensemble cast as talented and engaging as anything we’ve come to expect from the left-leaning, sunglasseswearing, openly gay auteur.
There are newcomers, of course; the hunky Miguel Angel Silvestre is excellent as the drugsmuggling bridegroom. But for long-time fans, part of the joy of watching a new Almodovar flick is spotting familiar faces from the Almodovarian universe. As is ticking off his stylistic hallmarks: the glossy decor; the stand-alone song; the elements of melodrama and pop culture; the paean to classic film (for I’m So Excited! think Italian comedies starring a flustered Sophia Loren or the Marx Brothers crushed inside a telephone box). The common Almodovarian themes: identity, creativity, desire, survival. The use of metaphor to tell stories with complex
Pedro Almodovar on the set of
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