Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

The Almodóvar season takes a little detour to consider the film that made his name on a world stage. An enjoyable romp, this one. Spontaneous and stylish, but with a bitter edge to it. Definitely not as warm as the other two films I've seen. Almodóvar can provide his own analysis. The DVD comes with an interview with him about the film, and here are some choice cuts:

'I consider comedy to be the most artificial of genres. I therefore wanted to start on a model of Pepa's apartment block and give the impression, helped by the sunlight pouring in through the window, that the model was the real thing. Then I'd pan across to the bed Pepa was sleeping in and the audience would then realize the building was a model. I remember I wanted to do this in one go, but for various technical reasons I was forced to split the opening sequence up into several shots. Losing the effect was very frustrating.'

'The voice-over has much to do with the technical problems I had with the opening sequence. I decided to use it for the sake of clarity and to bind all the shots together. It then became the basis for all the images of the film. And it ended up working very well. It was only at the end of the shoot that I decided to use a voice-over. Even if it's a little forced, the voice appeals to me because it explains Pepa's predicament; also because it compares the Pepa-Ivan couple to animals on Noah's Ark, which is an idea I'm very fond of.'

'Julieta's character is essential. It represents what all the other women in the film could become if they don't control themselves. Maria Barranco, the model who has an affair with the terrorist, Carmen Maura and Julieta represent three stages of frustrated love. As for Rossy de Palma, she's an innocent virgin but her fiance is dumping her for another woman. She won't remain a spectator of other people's passions for much longer.'

'The gazpacho in the film is a kind of magic potion. Like the potion in A Midsummer Night's Dream it can change the life of the person who drinks it and transport them to another world. The gazpacho transforms Rossy de Palma into a real woman. And her dream completes the transformation. When she wakes up Carmen tells her she's lost the kind of hardness and lack of sympathy typical of virgins.'

'The thesis of the film ... was to posit a feminine universe that's totally humane. The only remaining problem in this earthly paradise is that men continue to leave women. It's the perfect starting point for comedy: the taxi driver sings, he's like Pepa's guardian angel, the chemist is a wonderful woman. Obviously it's all ironic because city life is nothing like this...'

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