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Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodovar

Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodovar

by Paul Julian Smith, James Dunkerley (Editor), John King (Editor)

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With four additional chapters and original film stills, this new edition is the only study of its kind in English.


With four additional chapters and original film stills, this new edition is the only study of its kind in English.

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

Product Details

Verso Books
Publication date:
Critical Studies in Latin American and Iberian Cultures Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.74(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Julian Smith is a professor at the City University of New York. 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.

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