Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week 6 (Part 2): Talk to Her (2002)

Before I get into the film itself, I want to preface by saying that this is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Period. You don’t even have to like Almodóvar or be familiar with his previous work to enjoy this magnificent exploration of the human condition. I absolutely love it. I don’t even think I’m impartial enough to see anything wrong with it. It’s flawless. On that note, I think it’s the perfect film to end my cinematic journey into the canon of one Pedro Almodóvar. (For now).

For this blog’s fateful conclusion, we flash-forward almost a decade from Kika to find a very different Almodóvar. In these recent years, he’s shown a departure from his earlier genres and tones. Talk to Her feels different because it’s a more mature Almodóvar—one that’s aged quite well. 

Talk to Her takes a look at the lives of two comatose women, their relationships (past and present) with the men who care for them, and the crossing of all their paths. Lydia and Marco met because Marco wanted an interview for his paper. Lydia is a bullfighter. A tragic encounter with a bull will leave her in a vegetative state.

Alicia & Benigno / Lydia & Marco
Alicia and Benigno met because Benigno had been stalking her for some time after seeing her at a dance studio. He finally gets a chance to talk to her, but fate has other plans. Not only is Alicia not interested in him, but a car accident will leave this ballerina in a vegetative state. Yet there’s hope for Benigno. As a nurse, he becomes Alicia's caretaker.

"You must look after a woman, talk to her . . . "
Benigno appears to have crossed the line.
In Talk to Her, a more mature Almodóvar has left behind his crude dark comedies for something with a little less color. The film is a very somber drama, and this tone is reflected in the film’s color palette. The colors are still rich, but they’re not as bright or gaudy as they were in his previous films. They show a transformation in his style. 

Lydia both in and out of the ring. Notice the rich crimson.

The film opens and closes with a theatre performance and such a choice bookends the film into a very cultured space. His films have now ascended from low to highbrow.

The first scene is a performance of Pina Bausch’s "Café Müller."
Even the nudity’s a little more refined. It’s now tasteful. Stripped out of a sexual context and placed in a more sterile, clinical, almost anatomical setting—which isn’t to say it’s not erotic—it seems to have lost its bite. There is one notable exception in the scenes from El Amante Menguante ("The Shrinking Lover"), a fictional silent film that Benigno sees and recounts to a comatose Alicia. Yet even in this instance, the sexual content has a fantastical element that overwhelms any thought of vulgarity.

Benigno dressing Alicia.
Accompanied by an outstanding score by Alberto Iglesias (and haunting tracks by Caetano Veloso, Elis Regina, and k.d. lang), Talk to Her is a deeply moving tale of loneliness, (unrequited) love, and intimacy. And it’s not just about the relationships the women have with the men, but the relationship that the men develop between each other. 

Almodóvar’s male characters are now much stronger and more developed than their predecessors. They have a complexity that highlights the film’s many nuances. Because, well . . . nothing is simple.  

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