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It's hard to believe that Pedro Almodóvar released his first feature film in 1980: the scrappy, crazy, punk rock-influenced PEPI, LUCI, BOM. Yet it’s perhaps harder to believe that the director of such an outrageous comedy went on to become the most famous Spanish filmmaker since Luis Buñuel, whose dark, dryly funny but largely cryptic movies dominated the art-house scene during the ’60s and ’70s.
Since those early days, Almodóvar, now 63, has matured incredibly, telling unlikely but convincing and often unbearably moving stories, rocketing the likes of Penélope Cruz to stardom and refining his once-brash, camp charm into a colourful, stylish universe all of its own.
After charting more serious territory with a series of films that reflect his abiding interest in such genres as film noir (BROKEN EMBRACES) and gothic horror (THE SKIN I LIVE IN), Almodóvar’s latest will come as a tonic to those who miss the flamboyant farceur of times gone by, whose silly, energetic romps – LABYRINTH OF PASSION, LAW OF DESIRE and, most famously, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN – paid little attention to common sense and never came up for air.
Called I'M SO EXCITED! – the Spanish title, 'Los Amantes Pasajeros', translates very loosely as “passing lovers” – Almodóvar’s 19th film not only reunites him with Cruz and Antonio Banderas (in cameo roles), it also sees him returning to what he describes himself as his roots, “the crazy comedy tone from which I had moved away recently”.
Though the secretive Almodóvar is giving little away, he reveals that the film concerns a group of travellers who face a life-threatening situation on board a plane to Mexico City.
“I began writing the script as a comic whim,” he says. “I’ve tried to set reality aside, although at times reality sneaks in without you realising.”
Influenced more by theatre and television than usual, the director claims that this time words, rather than images, come firmly to the fore. “My films owe a lot to the theatre,” he reveals, “they are full of two-hander scenes and undisguised monologues.”
The result promises to be one of Almodóvar’s most ambitious comedies yet. “The challenge for my ‘passengers’,” he says, “is that they have to struggle with their anxiety, their fears and their ghosts without the help of technology – something that’s hard to imagine today. They are naked without their iPhones and iPads, condemned to be themselves, surrounded by strangers. Apart from reading, the weapon of those trapped in a single space is words – words for relating to each other, letting off steam, lying, lying to themselves, admitting that they’ve lied to themselves, seducing and being seduced, fighting against fear, loneliness and the idea of death.”
In other words, then, it’s business as usual for the most daring and original voice in contemporary world cinema.
- Damon Wise