Starring: Carmen Maura; Veronica Forque; Chus Lampreave
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Distributor: Hopscotch Entertainment
Zoom in on a flat in one of the many tenement blocks flanking the highway in Madrid and we’re introduced to one seriously dysfunctional family. Gloria (Carmen Maura) is a mother of two who works her butt off as a cleaning lady for an assortment of needy customers. Unsatisfied sexually, she has turned to No-Doze and glue-sniffing while her husband, Antonio (Angel de Andres Lopez) is off driving a cab and dreaming of an aristocratic German woman his father used to chauffeur. So disinterested is Antonio in his wife that he doesn’t even notice when she adopts their youngest son out to a lascivious paedophiliac dentist.
Their other son is busy selling drugs and caring for his old grandma who remains blissfully oblivious to the deals being done behind her coke bottle glasses. Gloria’s only real friend is their prostitute neighbour Cristal (Veronica Forque) who pops in from time to time in her fetish work gear to chew the fat, so to speak. Throw in a green lizard called Money and a child with super natural powers and you have one trippy flick indeed, one that echoes the sentiments of its leading lady in its title; What Have I Done to Deserve This? It’s exactly the sort of film that we’ve come to love and expect from Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodovar. Pushing the boundaries of conventional story telling to the max, he delivers pictures (16 to date) that carry you off into a world of crazed and wondrous originality. In this, his fourth feature, he has his pedal to the metal, even making a cameo appearance in a cutaway to a camp televised opera.
Fellini was obviously a big influence with music by Bernado Bonezzi often sounding like something Nino Rota might have scored. And when Cristal appears wearing a wedding ensemble not dissimilar to the one worn by Suzy, the circus dancer in Juliet of the Spirits, one can’t help think of the Italian maestro. But Almodovar’s insights into femininity are uniquely his own, as is his exploration of sex and desire which he charts here with gay abandon, landing us safely back down in a freshly wallpapered domestic haven.