| Dark Habits | Matador
| Atame | High Heels
Classic Film and Television Home Page
Pedro Almodóvar is a Spanish film director.
Dark Habits (1983) has some of the richest mise-en-scčne of Almodóvar's work.
It has the full use of blue and orange mixed in with white, found in later Almodóvar films.
The night club singer on the run who winds up at the convent reminds one a little of an American TV movie,
Dixie: Changing Habits (1980), but Almodóvar's treatment is entirely original.
The male leads of Matador (1986) and Law of Desire (1987) essentially switch places.
Nacho Martinez, who plays the title character of Matador, takes the supporting role of
Dr. Martin in Law of Desire. And Eusebio Poncela, who has the supporting role
of police inspector in Matador, has the lead role of the film director in Law of Desire.
After this, both actors disappear from Almodóvar's film universe.
In Matador, both men seem like extremely grown up figures of male authority.
This image is enhanced by the 1980's GQ style suits both men wear, which of course
in general were designed to make men look like authority figures.
The Matador's suits are a little more stylish and glamorous, whereas the police inspector's
are a little more serious and "good guyish", although his checked suit in the middle of the film
is certainly high fashion.
Not only do these actors disappear from Almodóvar's cinema, but so do the types they represent.
They play grown up, good looking, virile, authority and success figures, men roughly in their later thirties.
Almodóvar becomes much more interested in the boys trying to be men characters played by Antonio Banderas.
The older men who remain in his films are precisely that - much older men.
These include the middle aged roué of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,
and the elderly film director in Atame.
Atame / Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
Atame (1990) seems in many ways to be just a routine crime thriller. It has some memorable moments:
- the relationship with the asylum director;
- the candy heart;
- the wandering around on the city set, with Banderas peeping around "buildings";
- the heroine swinging from the roof;
- the sister Lola's dance number;
- the heroine's phone call with her mother (the most involving part of the movie);
- Banderas' later wandering among the ruins of his home town, which parallels his earlier city set scene;
- his map of his life;
- the final song in the car.
The movie continues Almodóvar's interest in red-orange and blue; right from the start Banderas
is dressed in blue jeans and a bright orange shirt.
Later he shows up in an interesting lime green T shirt, as well.
High Heels (1991) is a mystery-comedy.
Links to other Almodóvar
Almodóvar's films sometimes split into two parts:
- The first half of Law of Desire is a sex story, the second half a
thriller/melodrama; both parts are really good.
- The first part of High Heels is a well done mystery story,
climaxing in the confession of the killer; the second, inferior half of
the tale is really not much of anything, and is anticlimactic.
Scenes in High Heels recall previous Almodóvar movies.
The episode where the judge is interrogating the three women about
their relationships to the deceased, all lined up in one room
and at one table, recalls the comedy of Women on the Verge
of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). The scale model of the airport
recalls the city set in Atame.
The judge in High Heels, who could have been a grown-up male
figure like those in Matador,
is a very different kind of character, with a beard, living with
his mother, and with many eccentric characteristics. The judge
is much closer to the Banderas characters in Matador and
Law of Desire, both in his young age, and in that he lives
with his strict mother. These later films such as High Heels
largely exist in a women dominated, matriarchal world.
The color schemes in High Heels continue the fascination
with red-orange and blue. In addition, there is extensive use
of both white and gray:
- White seems to be used mainly as a contrast
to red; for example, the mother is largely dressed in red in one
scene, and her daughter in white, although she has red accessories.
- By contrast, gray tends to be used to make a character "escape"
from the color scheme. In the night club scene, both the mother
and the husband are in gray; it indicates they are less involved
emotionally with the night club and the singer there than the
daughter is. The husband doesn't want to be there at all, the
mother only went at the last minute.
- Blue is often associated
with macho males in the film. The husband wears it, it is featured
prominently in his home, and the judge also wears a blue shirt.
The police who arrest the killer are also in blue uniforms.
- The husband's home is almost entirely made up of orange and blue,
with very little white or contrasting color. This gives an emotionally
suffocating quality to the place, as if the wife can get no breathing
room there. It is if the decor has taken over everything. This
corresponds to the emotional nature of the home - the husband's
macho code leaves the wife little space to be herself.
- Black is
used only for young men's clothes in the film: the night club
singer's underwear, and the punk clothes of the young man at the
- Red is often associated with women performing: the
daughter's suit worn while she is being an anchorwoman on TV,
the mother's long red gloves at her concert, the night club singer's
red outfit, even the mother's elaborate red suit and hat at the
airport, when she is hoping to meet the media.
The backgrounds in High Heels tend to be striped, either
vertically or horizontally. These include:
Shots tend to be frontal, and to have a strong Renaissance perspective effect.
The table at the husband's house recedes precisely into the background
along lines of perspective, for example. So do the white lines
at the airport.
- the white lines at the airport,
- the horizontal friezes in the night club,
- and the red curtains in front of which the mother sings.
Symmetry is prominently featured in these scenes,
adding to the perspective effect. Often times paired imagery adds
to the symmetry: there are two policemen, one on each side of
the killer, during the arrest. The mother's two conspicuous red
gloves during the concert also call attention to themselves and
the mirror symmetry of the image.