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Women of Pedro Almodóvar

Published on February 4, 2012 by: in: Culture

Pedro Almodóvar’s “Broken Embraces” is perhaps the most personal of all his works. It is dedicated to the passion to create movies and emotions that accompany this creative process. In “Broken Embraces” the director seems to say loudly and clearly: “I love cinema,”  but what does he really love about it? The answer is simple: women. We prepared a review of the most important actresses who became “the muses” of Pedro Almodóvar at various stages of his directorial life.

source: OK - Apartment

source: OK - Apartment

Carmen Maura

Without a doubt, she is one of the most important actresses of the Spanish director. She appeared in his first feature-length movie in 1978, and in one of his recent productions Volver in 2009. Carmen Maura’s popularity in Europe grew undoubtedly thanks to Almodóvar, who in the 80’s made her an icon of his movies. The culmination of their collaboration was “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown“,  where Maura played Pepa – a voice-over actress abandoned by her lover. She received many awards for this role, including the European Film Award. Although “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” is the most fruitful cooperation of Almodóvar with Maura and the first Almodóvar’s movie which was so successful internationally, the roles she played in his earlier productions: “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” and “Law of Desire“, were much more recognizable. The phenomenal Gloria’s creation- as a women tired of life and constantly struggling not only with problems of mothers and wives, is still one of the most distinctive and feminine characters of the Spanish cinema. In turn, her role as a transsexual Tina in “Law of Desire” made Carmen a visual icon of the local gay communities. Almodóvar and Maura’s several-year-long cooperation was stopped by a fierce quarrel after shooting “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”. The couple made peace only a few years ago, during auditions for “Volver“. Maura played the role of a returning from the dead mother of two adult sisters, Raimunda and Sole, who would help them organize their chaotic lives.

Victoria Abril

Beautiful Victoria Abril is one of the most successful and well-known, not only in Europe but also around the world, Spanish actress. In contrast to Carmen Maura, she does not owe her career that much to Pedro Almodóvar. Thus, Abril took the position of Maura as the muse of the Spanish director. In his movies, he often picked handsome Antonio Banderas to be her main partner. She repaid Almodóvar with some really great and daring roles, such as creation of a former porn star Marina from “Tie me up!”, full of erotic tension. The movie provided her with a tremendous growth in popularity, even in Hollywood. Abril by Almodóvar is also Rebeca from “High Heels” – a movie that shows typical for the director situation of mother and daughter involved in unresolved issues from the past and a quite recent murder. Moreover, Victoria is a peculiar and original journalist Andrea from “Kika” – perhaps the most kitschy, colorful and quite funny production of the Spanish director.

Verónica Forqué

Great grotesque movie Kika draws attention to another Almodóvar’s muse – Veronica Forqué, who had so far appeared in minor roles in Matador and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” Forqué has become a showcase of controversial black comedy of the Spanish director. The role played by her – an optimistic, full of serenity and warmth naive beautician Kika, is perhaps the most striking and memorable character of all Almodóvar’s productions. It could not be otherwise, since Kika is accompanied by many conflicting emotions. On one hand it is a hilarious and deliberately incredibly tacky story, on the other it is a story about sex and death in which you often cannot find the boundary between the deliberate kitsch and tacky vulgarity.

Marisa Paredes

Marisa Paredes for Almodóvar’s movies of the 90’s was as important as Carmen Maura for his productions from the previous decade. Paredes has left a huge imprint on Almodóvar’s best productions from this period. In “The flower of My Secret” she marvelously played the role of a lonely and unhappy bestselling romance novelist, who after the disappointment of marriage and a suicide attempt finds balance in her life when she returns home to her mother.  In brilliant “All About My Mother” Parades partnered Cecillia Roth, the movie’s Manuela, and she helped the director to give the movie an unique atmosphere of the story, dedicated for the first time so directly and openly to women and actresses at the same time. Besides, the role of Huma Rojo was created by the director especially for Paredes, who at every opportunity thanks Almodóvar for the chance to play such an interesting character.

source: OK - Apartment

source: OK - Apartment

Cecilia Roth

Cecilia Roth tied acting knots with Almodóvar in the 80’s, but their cooperation then was definitely of superficial character, and the actress appeared in movies rather than played in them. This situation changed after  “All About My Mother”. Anyway, the director stressed that Cecilia Roth from the 80’s and the one that played a major role in his film in 1999, are two very different women and actresses. For several years Roth matured in Almodóvar’s eyes and she greatly improved her acting skills. About her role in “All About My Mother”  the director was to say: “When I watch her in the movie and I feel her heartbeat as Manuela, I know that I am dealing with one of the most moving roles I’ve ever seen.” Besides, this production from the late 90’s is still the most outstanding position in Pedro Almodóvar’s filmography. It is a kind of tribute paid to the feminine world, filled with unique emotions, passions and dramas.  In “All About My Mother”  the director so skillfully combined elements of a trashy romance with artistically perfect American melodrama that today this movie is mentioned as Almodóvar’s masterpiece and his every movie should refer to it.

Rossy de Palma

A fantastic Almodóvar’s supporting actress, thus for such roles she was nominated twice for major awards in the Spanish film industry. Before the girl from Majorca met on her way the famous director in the mid-80s, she was a singer and dancer working part-time in a fancy cafe in Madrid, where she charmed Pedro Almodóvar. Outstanding,  not to say transsexual beauty of Rossy de Palma is the quintessential director’s idea of femininity – of course, suspended between the two sexes image, a little vampire, but extremely expressive.  From the episode in “The Law of Desire” de Palma was appearing in Almodóvar’s  movies until “The flower of My Secret”. But with her remarkable beauty, of course, she best inscribed in a grotesque atmosphere of “Kika”.

Penelope Cruz

The latest muse of the director. When she first appeared in Almodóvar’s plot, Live Flesh in 1997, she was already a fairly well known, even outside Spain, actress.  For many years she had been treated as less talented, except in “Open Your Eyes”, and she was entrusted only with undemanding roles, in which the most important seemed to be her great Latin beauty. It was Pedro Almodóvar who put her on top by giving her the role of Raimunda in “Volver”. Besides, the role of Raimunda, more than Lena in “Broken Embraces“, gave Cruz full opportunity to show her acting skills, especially that there is a context for comparison in the movie.

“Broken Embraces” is the first production created for the Spanish beauty, where not only her acting skills but also her appearance is displayed. Lena is the perfect embodiment of passion, emotions and feelings that accompany the process of creating movies, not just those of Pedro Almodóvar. Yet, “Broken Embraces” – the most personal work of the Spanish director, is about such creation.

Pedro Almodóvar creates an unusual bond with his muses. If such bond did not exist, his kitschy, melodramatic and sentimental stories would become only meaningless and nicely packaged platitudes. The director is gifted with a remarkable sixth sense for finding the perfect actress who perfectly understands the character created by him. And again, if not the perfect agreement, the magic of Almodóvar’s cinema would pop like a soap bubble. The artist undoubtedly understands women like no other, he tries to penetrate deeply in their psyche to understand the complexity of their nature and their emotions. Almodóvar defines femininity in almost every story, the issue of gender is not the determinant, hence in his films we can observe fascinating and thoroughly feminine transsexuals. Under the wings of the Spanish director, the outstanding actresses had the opportunity to show the full range of their great skills. It is doubtful that Pedro Almodóvar’s search for perfect actresses to play leading roles in his movies has finished with Penélope Cruz. Due to that fact, we can predict that the author is still able to surprise the viewer. And it is probably more than once.

Translation: Kamila Kwiecień

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