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

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

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

So Ex­cited!,

Pe­dro Almod­ovar on the set of

left and above

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