A general erection contest! Spiked gazpacho! Racy nuns! Obsessive Antonio Banderas characters! Delightfully campy Carmen Maura performances! Miguel Bosé in drag! There’s a lot to love (and blush at) in the early films of Pedro Almodóvar. And so, for those of you who want to revisit some of the Spanish auteur’s friskier, more DIY-feeling 1980s films — or for those who want to look back at the director before he became a well-respected Oscar-winning auteur — the Roxie in San Francisco has programmed a six film retrospective titled Early Almodóvar/Los Inicios de Almodóvar, no doubt as a way to keep us fans happy while we wait for Julieta to make it Stateside.
You’ll be able to see his very first (comercially released) feature film, 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón which bristles with the energy of Madrid’s La Movida scene, centering on three unlikely heroines: a rape victim, a masochistic housewife, and a lesbian punk rocker. If that alone doesn’t get you excited, you should know that Almodóvar himself can be seen in the film emceeing a contest evaluating men’s private parts.
Three of his other collaborations with his muse Carmen Maura will also be shown and they are a great example of the range and vivacity the actress brought to her work with Pedro. Whether playing a housewife dealing with an abusive husband in a bonkers melodrama (What Have I done to Deserve This?), a trans woman who just wants to make it as an actress in a lurid and lustful thriller (Law of Desire), or a scorned woman grappling with her broken heart in a colorful screwball comedy (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), Maura was in no uncertain terms one of the reasons Pedro’s films soared.
His other muse, the young Antonio Banderas, is also well-represented in this selection. On top of his bit role in Women on the Verge, and his ace performance as a troubled young man in Law of Desire (spoiler: don’t ever turn Antonio down!), the Roxie is showing one of Almodóvar’s most controversial films, the Stockholm syndrome rom-com Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! — a film so racy it was responsible for ushering the NC-17 rating in the United States.
The mini-retrospective ends with a film that telegraphs where Almodóvar’s films would be inching towards: in the melodrama High Heels you’ll find the seeds of the seriousness and earnestness that the filmmaker would bring to his later films. Its twisting plot focuses on the frayed relationship between a diva mother (Marisa Paredes) and her newscaster daughter (Victoria Abril) which is put to the test when a man they are both close to turns up dead. Oh, and did we mention it features Miguel Bosé cross-dressing in what seems like a rough draft for what will be Gael García Bernal’s character in Bad Education?
It’s not every day you get to see these gems on the big screen so get your tickets while can. Fly to San Francisco if you have to!
Early Almodóvar/Los Inicios de Almodóvar runs at the Roxie in San Francisco May 20 – 26, 2016