Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodovar


Pedro Almodovar … winner of a BAFTA for Best Director, 2000

All About My Mother … Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, 2000

The huge international success of his latest feature, All About My Mother, has finally granted Pedro Almodovar the recognition he deserves, as the most artistically ambitious and commercially consistent film-maker in Europe.

Frequently comic, often deadly serious, always visually glorious,...

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Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodovar

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Pedro Almodovar … winner of a BAFTA for Best Director, 2000

All About My Mother … Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, 2000

The huge international success of his latest feature, All About My Mother, has finally granted Pedro Almodovar the recognition he deserves, as the most artistically ambitious and commercially consistent film-maker in Europe.

Frequently comic, often deadly serious, always visually glorious, his films range from the screwball comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and the SM melodrama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! to the almost classically austere Live Flesh. And, while questions of gender, nationality and sexuality have always been Almodovar’s concern, new subjects have been addressed in his more recent work: the corrosive effects of a deregulated Spanish media, the transition from dictatorship to democracy and, in All About My Mother, uncompromising explorations of the process of mourning.

This new edition includes four new chapters, among which is a rare interview with Almodovar himself, a new preface and additional illustrations. Still the only study of its kind in English, it vigorously confirms its original argument, that beneath Almodovar’s genius for comedy and visual pleasure lies a film-maker whose work deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A thoughtful scholar and evident fan, Smith situates the nine feature films of Spanish director Almodovar within the shifting politics of post-Franco Spain, international debates about gender and sexuality, and the codes of Hollywood (particularly slasher films, melodramas and work by Douglas Sirk, Frank Tashlin and Alfred Hitchcock). Almodovar's films, he argues, seek ``truth in travesty,'' partly by calling attention to cinematic artifice and representing gender and sexuality as stylized performance. Smith also contextualizes Almodovar's work, comparing its reception in Spain to that in other European countries and America--though a consideration of other Spanish-speaking markets might have been even more enlightening. He notes, for example, that Spanish audiences particularly appreciate the casting of straight actor Antonio Banderas in a gay role and of ``genuine girl'' Carmen Maura as a transsexual, communicating ``a certain bracketing of gender identity'' that might be missed elsewhere. Smith points out that Anglo-American critics consumed with the supposed misogyny of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! missed the important theme of addiction. Although Smith's prose, informed by the psychoanalytic discourse of linguistics and feminist theory, occasionally threatens to deflate the delightful flamboyance of his subject, and some of his arguments beg for further development, his essays present a finely observed, compelling case for the seriousness and complexity of a cinema dedicated to evoking ``the fragility of sexual difference.'' (Apr.)
Library Journal
The author (Spanish, Cambridge Univ.) looks at one of Spain's most important contemporary film directors, beginning with his first full-length feature and ending with High Heels (1991). There is no denying that these films have special impact and importance to contemporary film audiences because they combine controversial themes and striking cinematography. Because he looks at the production scripts, knows the significance of shooting locations, has a familiarity with Spanish culture, and is able to use Spanish-language sources, Smith offers many insights unavailable to readers limited to materials in English. The only other book in English on this director, Nuria Vidal's The Films of Pedro Almodvar (Instituto de la Cinematografia y las Artes Audiovisuales, Ministerio de Cultura, 1988), is not widely available. Consequently, Smith's work, though written for an academic audience, will be welcome in most serious film collections.-James E. Ross, Seattle P.L.
From the Publisher
"Finely observed, compelling."—Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781781681770
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 8/12/2014
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,146,233
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Julian Smith is Professor of Spanish and Head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Cambridge University. His previous books include Vision Machines: Cinema, Literature and Sexuality in Spain and Cuba, 1983–1993 and The Moderns: Time, Space and Subjectivity in Contemporary Spanish Culture.

James Dunkerley is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, University of London, and Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas. His books include Rebellion in the Veins, Power in the Isthmus and The Long War, all published by Verso.

John King is Professor of Latin American Cultural History at the University of Warwick.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: El Deseo, S.A. (Desire Ltd) 1
1 Pepi, Luci, Bom, y otras chicas del monton (Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap, 1980): Rhetoric and Reference 9
2 Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion, 1982): Cult Film Experiences 23
3 Entre tinieblas (Dark Habits, 1983): Out of the Convent 37
4 Que he hecho yo para merecer esto? (What Have I Done to Deserve This?, 1984): Gender, Space, Representation 51
5 Matador (1986): Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible 65
6 La ley del deseo (The Law of Desire, 1987): A Talent for Production 79
7 Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988): Femininity by Design 93
8 !Atame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, 1990): Not a Love Story? 107
9 Tacones lejanos (High Heels, 1991): Imitations of Life 121
Conclusion: Screen Memories 137
Filmography and Plot Synopses 141
Select Bibliography 157
Index 163
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