Saturday, July 23, 2016

Before I Die #572: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

This is the 572nd movie I've seen from the 1,177 movies on the "Before You Die" list that I am gradually working through.

Original Spanish Title: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios

Director: Pedro Almodovar

This is the third Almodovar movie that I've watched, and I can see why some viewers tend to divide his movies into "early" and "late" periods. Women on the Verge is one of his earliest feature length movies, making it clear that he was always a film-maker with a clear vision and style, regardless of the themes and emotional tones in his stories.

In a brisk and fun 88 minutes, the movie depicts a strange and trying few days for Pepa, and actress whose married and philandering lover, Ivan, has left her for another woman. Pepa frantically tries to track down Ivan, seeking out his son and former wife, who are equally confused in their own ways. As the search continues, more people get involved, until the entire pursuit involves Pepa's anxious friend Candela, Muslim terrorists, a few police, a telephone repairman, and a few other peculiar characters thrown in.

From that short description, it shouldn't surprise you that the film has a clearly zany, comic tone. This makes it plenty of fun for its short running time. The humor nearly all revolves around the different characters coping with their romantic frustrations from unrequited or unrecognized affections. Much of the humor is sold through the excellent acting and matter-of-fact deliveries of the actors.

As with the other two Almodovar movies I've seen, the visuals are stunning. The camerawork and editing are masterful, and the sets and costumes are eye-popping in their vibrancy. And the sets are very clearly stage props, meant to drive home the point that we are in a completely fictional, almost cartoonish world. While such brightness can seem at odds with darker themes found in Almodovar movies such as Talk to Her, it fits perfectly with a more light-hearted film such as Women on the Verge. Put simply, it makes the movie eminently pleasant to watch.

I'm now completely on board Almodovar. Having seen one of his movies each from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, I think I can see the general shift in theme and presentation over the decades, and I am eager to take in as many of his other movies as I can. Fortunately, my Spanish-speaking wife is a fan who is of the same attitude, so this will be a set of films that I don't have to watch solo (just ask her about my Mad Max binge).

That's 572 movies down. Only 607 to go before I can die.