Three years after the acclaim of "Volver", Almodóvar's new film has had some mixed reviews. From what I read of the bad reviews, they partly they accused him of self-indulgence, partly of creating a convoluted story which is hard to follow. I strongly believe that those defending the second point should reassess their career of choice and limit themselves to watch something more appropriate to their intellectual abilities, like "Transformers" or "Meet the Spartans". Yes, the film has a flashback, and there are scenes from the film-within-the-film in that flashback, but you can easily tell them apart (either that or I am a genius).
However, those who accuse him of self-indulgence have a case. There are many moments throughout Almodóvar's new opus that brought to my mind scenes of past films (and not only his own - Penélope Cruz as Audrey Hepburn?!). Not only "Women on a Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", which seems to be revamped into the film they are shooting - the gazpacho full of sleeping pills, the leading lady throwing her ex's things from her apartment to the street, the insane second wife, the nosy downstairs neighbour, and I am sure I could go on if I recalled "Women..." better. It also mimics the plot structure of "Bad Education" - a film within the film and flashbacks. And there is even a voice-over/dubbing moment, which is ever present in so many of his films with Carmen Maura and Victoria Abril. And like "Bad Education" and "Law of Desire" one of the lead characters is a film director. Clearly the director/screenwriter is repeating his motifs a bit more frequently than he should - or maybe this is a general wink to an audience which by now has a good grasp of his film career, and most of us are missing the point.
This is a tamed film compared to his previous works. I am not sure if it's aimed to be a crowd pleaser, but it might just be. There are no transvestites, drag-queens, transsexuals or bizarre events. It's a much simpler story of obsessions and things untold, clearly taking inspiration from the "women's pictures" of the 1940s. I should point out by now that I actually liked the film. It's nostalgic for a cinema that I love - there are some crucial stairs taken directly from old Hollywood sets. But it has some wonderful moments which are Almodóvar's own. His colour palette. The scene I mentioned above with voice-over/dubbing and that can be seen out-of-context in the trailer. Put it in context and it has an unsuspecting emotional power, albeit an "artificial" one.
Afterwards I was wondering what will follow from here and I suspect that in a few years time we'll realise that the director has started a new phase in his career.
PS - This review is especially dedicated to a homonym.