I saw in the most recent issue of The Threepenny Review a symposium on the films of Pedro Almodóvar. It’s been a few months since I’ve had my favorite filmmaker in my life, so I quickly devoured the essays inside—brief though they were, they were delicous.
What I loved about this symposium was that people from a small variety of backgrounds were asked to respond to Almodóvar’s films in a personal manner. I’m not sure there’s any other way to respond to his work, really. One wrote about seeing Talk to Her in Spanish with French subtitles while traveling abroad; another, about returning to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown after twenty years of separation.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint what I love so much about his films, why they speak to me, but I can say that I see myself in his work. I mean, I see a representation of myself there. This is how I see the world: full of hyperbole and histrionics, full of marginalized people who are perhaps more authentic than the legitimate people. And there—the question/burden of authenticity, both in art and in life (for Almodóvar’s films are as much about being films as they are about approximating life).
As Agrado describes in All About My Mother (my favorite, easily): “I am very authentic” (muy auténtico), just as she explains all the ways in which her body has been surgically altered to appear female. Because authenticity is an internal definition, not external. Her physical modifications, which would seem the opposite of inauthentic from an outside perspective, serve to make her body and complete self-image more in line, more authentic, in the end.
Almodóvar, for better or worse, gave us Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz.
What he is, really, is an artist of appropriation. He pulls, steals, borrows, clips and cuts from all manner of traditions and art forms: other films, visual art, performance art, cabaret, architecture, melodrama…
I want to be the place where things converge, the way he is.