Monday, September 17, 2007

Law of Desire

La ley del deseo; Drama/ Satire, Spain, 1987; D: Pedro Almodóvar, S: Eusebio Poncela, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Manuela Velasco, Fernando Guillen, Bibiana Fernandez, Rossy de Palma

Pablo is a gay film director. His brother changed his gender and became a woman, Tina, after an affair with his father who eventually found a new mistress. As a consequence, Tina always had problems with men, but loves her 10-year old niece Ada like a real daughter. When Pablo offers Tina a role in his new film, she is angry because the script is based on her problems. At the same time, Pablo starts an affair with obsessed fan Antonio, but breaks up with him since he is still in love with his former boyfriend Juan. Out of jealousy, Antonio kills Juan by pushing him from a cliff and the police suspects Pablo is the perpetrator. When he hears this he crashes with his car into a tree and looses his memory, while Tina discovers Antonio is actually the murderer. In the end, Antonio commits suicide.

Pedro Almodovar is one of the few directors that can direct a soap opera and make it work. "Law of Desire", one of his earlier films, is precisely that - a soap opera (impossible dramatic twists of fate, a love triangle full of misunderstanding, murder out of jealousy, the main protagonist suffers from amnesia after a car accident...) that was enriched thanks to the director's eccentric style and quirky humor that courageously mix trash and art. The unusual tone of the entire film is already established in the exposition: a man sits on a bed and an off voice tells him: "Take your pants off", which he does. The man looks directly into the camera and the voice tells him: "Don't look at me!" Then the voice directs him to kiss his image in the mirror, strip naked, turn around and masturbate - some of the more perplexed viewers will probably at first think they are watching some porn, not an Almodovar film, but it later turns out that whole sequence is just an scene from the film of the hero Pablo (Eusebio Poncelo), who is obviously Almodovar's alter ego. Not caring so much for tradition or norms, the eccentric Spanish directors creates his own film, a unique tragicomedy with some real drama and emotions that radiate from excellent characters (especially cute is the 10-year old girl Ada who is in love with Pablo) and Antonio Banderas is surprisingly acting in a role against his type, as Pablo's gay, obsessed fan. The humor is also present very often (the police officers investigating a murder and following Antonio's false trail of an imaginary woman called Laura P., discover a manuscript in Pablo's room that mentions Laura P. and immediately suspect him of the murder, even though Tina flat out tells them it's just a movie script!) but it's just there to help the film stand out in the "marginal" Spanish cinema, and even though some moments are shaky, "Law of Desire" remains an interesting piece of surreal movie making.


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