Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Almodovar and the New Telly

A few minutes before the grand reconvening of Film Club on Sunday, Mrs The Millbrooker and I were to be found on our hands and knees on the sitting room floor pressing buttons frantically. All of our efforts were attempts to work out how to tune in the brand spanking new (to us - positively antediluvian to anyone else) cathode ray tube, kindly donated by Rosemary:Eventually Mrs The Millbrooker worked out the correct combination of clickings and pushings, resulting in:Yes, we had another Pedro Almodovar piece of semi-surrealist, and very dark, comedy - his 1984 offering "What Have I Done to Deserve This?".

Almodovar is one of those film makers who determinedly treads his own pathway; there's rarely a chance of mistaking one of his pieces for work by anyone else. WHIDTDT? is no exception, the young Alomodovar already putting many of his trademark stamps on the production.The film concerns itself with the day-to-day trauma of living in poverty in a dysfunctional family; sounds like fun, doesn't it? You know what? It is.

It's not laugh out loud funny - but it is deeply and movingly wry with enough up-front humour to raise a smile and a chuckle. As with much (all?) of Almodovar's work the film is very much centred on the feminine - the principal character is Gloria (Carmen Maura) who's husband, Antonio, is a chauvinistic, selfish oaf (played convincingly by Angel de Andres Lopez).

They live in a tiny, crowded, chaotic flat in a dismal and poor corner of Madrid along with Antonio's mildly deranged (and highly entertaining) mother and their two sons Toni (a fourteen year old wise-guy drug dealer) and Miguel (an eleven year old gay tart). Yep - fairly typical comedic material for our Pedro. In the next flat is Cristal, Gloria's best friend who runs her own business at home; namely she's a prostitute.In a series of set pieces, the family falls apart (how could it not?) and the emotional fall out comes thick and fast. The brutal honesty of the dialogue is both moving and amusing; it becomes entirely normal to accept that rather than pay a dentist's bill, Gloria gives him her son Miguel as a live-in catamite. Normal and sensible, even.The performances are occasionally pantomimic, but Maura gives a sublime few minutes towards the film's ending as the realisation of her lot in life and what she's done to change it moves across her features - relief, sadness, love, emptiness; they're all there in her expressions as she walks in silence away from her departing relatives. Brilliant.

On the film club scale, Dong stayed with it throughout (no fag breaks), Frankenkeith was highly impressed with the acting, Slocombe enjoyed it and was surprised at the level of humour in such potentially depressing subject matter. Shazzerooneypoos is an Almodovar fan, so of course she liked it.

So - a slightly challenging piece of cinema, vastly enjoyable and another recommendation from the Millbrooker Towers Film Club..

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