Tag Archives: almodóvar

Las mujeres de Almodóvar : Chus Lampreave

I was going to start this post off by saying that I’ve been in a real Almodóvar-watching mood recently, but that would be a ridiculous thing to say because I’m always in the mood for watching his films.

More accurately, I’ve been in the mood for rewatching some of my favorite films by him, including Volver, Oscar winner Hable con ella (Talk to Her), and Oscar nominee Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). And if you haven’t seen any of those, please rush out and do so immediately.

Almodóvar’s films always have a few elements in common: humor, passion, bright colors, Madrid, men who make bad decisions, and women who have to deal with the repercussions of those bad decisions. But it’s not just themes that pop up over and over in his work. Actors also often appear regularly in his productions—he started the careers of Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas after all. But one of my favorite character actors who appears in almost every Almodóvar film, including the three I’ve rewatched most recently, is Chus Lampreave.

Lampreave is a veteran Spanish actress whose career dates back to the 1950s, including extensive work in Spanish television, and who usually shows up in an Almodóvar film as some batty landlord or crazed relative. I first saw her in Mujeres al borde 10 years ago; she plays a stubborn Jehovah’s Witness who refuses to lie for the philandering Iván in that movie. I’ve kept a keen eye out for her ever since. And in my opinion, one of her best roles is as tía Paula in Volver.

Lola Dueñas, Penélope Cruz, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave in "Volver"

Paula is a nutty old aunt to sisters Penélope Cruz and Lola Dueñas (another Almodóvar regular who kills it in everything she does) who lives in a small village in La Mancha—a town whose inhabitants suffer from chronic insanity caused by strong winds. It’s a classic Lampreave role in a Almodóvar picture: old, stubborn woman who is out of her mind. Paula has been talking to the ghost of the sisters’ mother lately. It’s probably just the wind, but of course…you should see the movie yourself! Lampreave’s character isn’t in much of the movie, but for the few scenes she has, she absolutely steals the show. That’s saying a lot when she’s sharing the screen with Penélope Cruz, an actress who garnered an Oscar nomination for her role in the film.

Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos) : a film by Pedro Almodóvar

I finally got my wish the other day and saw Los abrazos rotos. While it’s not the perfect success of Almodóvar’s last film with Penélope Cruz—the Cannes darling Volver—, it delighted this viewer just as everything else produced by the Spanish director has.

Almodóvar draws inspiration from Hitchcock with the film. Los abrazos rotos is a stylish thriller with a story that unravels as the viewer travels back and forth in time. We start in the present with a blind Spanish screenwriter named “Harry Caine,” who is cared for meticulously by his agent Judit and her son Diego. But a visit from the son of an old business associate of Caine’s sends the film tumbling back into the sordid events of the 1990s. Caine was still Mateo Blanco then, an up-and-coming film director working on Chicas y maletas (Women and Suitcases), which happens to be remarkably similar to Almodóvar’s own film Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)—a movie everyone should see. In fact, the same set is used for Chicas y maletas as Almodóvar used in Mujeres.

Blanco’s film consumes him, particularly because of its star Lena Rivas (Cruz). On film, she’s a plucky Audrey Hepburn look-a-like. In real life, she’s a woman trapped by the repercussions of her difficult decisions in life. Rivas is the mistress of Ernesto Martel, a businessman who produces Blanco’s movie and who’s son shows up at Harry Caine’s apartment years later. Blanco is infatuated with Rivas. And the tensions between Blanco and Martel, a jealous and controlling lover, quickly escalate and are heightened by the presence of Martel’s son, a burgeoning director himself who is filming a documentary about the making of Chicas y maletas. Martel Jr.’s raw footage is viewed daily by the paranoid and manipulative Martel Sr., who goes as far as to hire a lipreader to decipher the conversations between Rivas and Blanco that happen behind the camera.

How does Blanco go blind? Why does he call himself Harry Caine? What becomes of Rivas? Why does Junior come calling on Caine/Blanco years later? Well, you’re just going to have to watch the film and follow the circuitous route to those answers yourself.

Roger Ebert in Esquire

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a really interesting profile of film critic Roger Ebert in the most recent Esquire. (I’ve been shunning the net the last couple of days to catch up on real print media.) You can access the electronic version of the article here. I grew up in the area near Chicago that is called Michiana or The Region by some, so I always got a double dose of Roger Ebert—both the print and television versions. He was never my favorite film reviewer in the world, but it’s hard not to check out what he has to say about things from time to time, no? So this article is an interesting peek into what’s been happening with him the last four years or so. He can’t speak, he can’t travel much, he writes constantly, and he’s gotten more pensive and emotional.  Seems he sheds a tear for Gene Siskel almost every day now. But what does all that have to do with Spanish? Well, during the author’s research for the article, Ebert was in the midst of reviewing Almodóvar’s new film Broken Embraces—a film I still haven’t seen because of its ridiculously short run in St. Louis. Ebert gave it four stars.

Pedro Almodóvar loves the movies with lust and abandon and the skill of an experienced lover. “Broken Embraces” is a voluptuary of a film, drunk on primary colors, caressing Penélope Cruz, using the devices of a Hitchcock to distract us with surfaces while the sinister uncoils beneath. As it ravished me, I longed for a freeze-frame to allow me to savor a shot.

Matador : a film by Pedro Almodóvar

Someone had the brilliant idea of playing Pedro Almodóvar’s newest film Broken Embraces in San Luis only at 1 in the afternoon on weekdays. Because Almodóvar is an unknown director??? He’s only won an Oscar, two Baftas, and a zillion festival awards in his career. The film stars Penélope Cruz for goodness’ sake. Anyway, how many people can make a 1PM screening on a weekday? Not me, unfortunately. I’m just going to have to wait for it to come out on DVD. In protest, I watched his 80s film Matador the other day and currently have a slew of his films in my Netflix queue. (I bet you wonder how that’s a protest. Trust me…it is.) To further pour salt in my Almodóvar wound, I could only find a version of Matador‘s trailer with Dutch (I think?) subtitles. But you’ll get the idea.

There are a few Almodóvar films that I’m meh about; Matador is not one of them. It’s also not the film with James Bond, if that’s what you were wondering. The movie centers around several characters: a guilt-filled bullfighting student (played by an incredibly young looking Antonio Banderas), the student’s overly religious mother, a hobbled retired bullfighter, a lawyer, a model, and the model’s downright weird mother. Sheesh! At least one of them is a murderer. Why and how I’ll leave to you. Typical for Almodóvar, the film is deep with color and humor. It’s also a bit Hitchcock-esque, if I’m allowed to say that. Watch it.