DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodovar
SPAIN 1986
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Angel Luis Fernandez
MUSIC: Bernardo Bonezzi
CAST: Assumpta Serna, Antonio Banderas, Nacho Martinez, Eva Cobo, Julieta Serrano, Chus Lampreave, Carmen Maura
ONE WORD: Surrealism Almodovar style. Not sure you want to compare this surrealism to the other, but what the heck ... have some fun!

A better title for this film, might be "Matadores", rather than the suggested and used title referring to a bullfighter. The story is better suited to the implications that the wording has to offer, much more than it does anything else.

And like many of Pedro Almodovar's films since this one was released, the theme is no less an exploration of the extreme passion with which we humans can take our feelings and desires. If there is a difference between what Pedro Almodovar does now, and did then, is that he has lost his "erotic" edge, and is now making more "meaningful" films. Or, one could really consider that Pedro Almodovar has become a soft Luis Bunuel clone -- not a funny joke, when this film actually pays a little tribute to one of that master's films, and one where the obsessions were totally out of control -- but usually a visual sequence inside a character's head -- not in the story. In this film, we do not get to find out that the passions and obsessions are totally out of control until quite bit later, and as it turns out, it makes this film very enjoyable. Well ... it is surrealistic after all!

It is the story of a bullfighter that is over the hill, thanks to an injury he suffered in the ring. What made him famous as a bullfighter was a specific type of ruthlessness, which as time goes by has turned him into a different kind of matador. And as usual, there is always one more bull, or a better one, or a bigger one where one can prove to himself/herself how much they are really worth. The deadly part of this is that both Diego and Maria have become obsessed with each other, and they know what they have to do to achieve their crowning achievement. And in their process they have gone a little too far, which seems to have set the law chasing them. Eventually they consummate their soul mate relationship, and in the process they make sure they accomplish their goals for the last time.

What complicates this film is the fact that one of Diego's students, who appears to be one of his better ones, is also susceptible to visions and that he is seeing things he can not explain very well, but in the end comes to find out that it is indeed the deadly game that more than likely has killed some of his fellow students. Embroidered into this is an old fan of Diego, who is obsessed with meeting him. Early on, we find out that she is a bit of the black widow herself, but we can not figure out where she fits in. Well, we find out through her having sex, that her excitement is basically the same as ... you guessed it, Diego at the threshold.

While this film fits into the category of Pedro Almodovar's earlier material, it really is a slow starter, but as soon as Assumpta Serna appears (with a massive bang), we know that we are in for something rather interesting. As soon as the sexual rampage is unleashed, the film is on. Actually at least a couple of his films had the same type of thing, most notably "High Heels". As serious as things are, the difference between this film being done in Spain as opposed to America, is that the surrealism is strong and serious and sordid. Here, we tend to look at those things with a left eye and laugh as if it were simply an off beat comedy, which this film, and almost all of Luis Bunuel's surreal films were not, ever. Pedro Almodovar's style lends itself towards making a little fun of the seriousness of the surrealistic view of things, but he is not afraid to make his own statements in this matter. In the excellent moment in this film where a piece of a Luis Bunuel film is shown, what it actually shows is the "victim" that had been made out of wax as an allegory for the character's attempt to let go of a woman he madly loves. In this film it is the opposite. The death's are the ritualistic sacrifice, the victims are just pawns in a much bigger game.

The most important person in this film, is without a doubt Maria (Assumpta Serna), and her ability to slip through the cracks and then achieve her own satisfaction in the way that she wants. She is the sexual monster and the vampire, and she is ready for more. Diego, discovers, or comes to accept through her, that he has the same feelings, thus the attraction between them and eventual meeting becomes the highlight and the thing to look forward to in this film. Unfortunately, aside from the most erotic filming of a woman naked since Julie Christie in "Don't Look Now", the film really starts suffering and getting a bit melodramatic. As time went by, Pedro Almodovar, learned not to compromise either the seriousness or the melodrama in his work. But as he does this, his filming style and angles will give us, in the meantime, a very eye pleasing romp and assault on the senses that helps us enjoy his work. Even if the subject matter is rather ... unsavory.





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