Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Labyrinth of Passion




Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passion) is the story about a nymphomaniac pop star who falls in love with a gay Middle-Eastern prince as they try to deal with their own issues. The film is another exploration into the world of homosexuality in Movida madrilena period of post-Franco Spain as it involves two people with different sexual preferences. Starring Cecilia Roth, Imanol Arias, Helga Line, Marta Fernandez Muro, and in his film debut, Antonio Banderas. Laberinto de pasiones is a whimsical but very messy film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores the world of a nymphomaniac pop star and a gay prince from a fictionalized Middle East country where he is now an exile. Especially as the latter is being pursued by Muslim students trying to get him back in the country as a prisoner as well as the prince’s step-mother who wants him to impregnate her. Meanwhile, the two protagonists in Sexila (Cecila Roth) and Prince Riza Niro (Imanol Arias) were former childhood friends who hadn’t seen each other in years as Sexila becomes tired of her nymphomania as she also deals with the estranged relationship she has with her frigid gynecologist father (Fernando Vivanco). With Riza disguising himself to become part of the Movida madrilena scene where he would become a singer for a new wave band, he and Sexila renew their lost friendship while Sexila helps another woman in Queti (Marta Fernandez Muro) in finding herself after having been raped by her own father (Luis Ciges).

It’s a story that has a lot happening in the film where at times, it can be exciting and thrilling but it’s also a very messy story. Much of it involves the schemes of Muslim students where one of them in Sadec (Antonio Banderas) has a heightened sense of smell as he’s in love with Riza while the Empress Toraya (Helga Line) is trying to pursue Riza as she is someone that Sexila loathes which dates back to her childhood friendship with Riza. Adding to this sense of chaos is Queti’s desire to find herself where she would eventually become Sexila’s doppelganger as the story becomes more bizarre. The numerous amount of storylines that would also involve Riza fronting a band, Queti’s desire to find love, Toraya and the Muslim students’ different pursuits of Riza, and Sexila trying to find love as well makes the story a bit overstuffed at times but also plodding in some respects as it relates to its pacing.

Pedro Almodovar’s direction has some very lively moments in not just some of the concerts and party scenes but also in the way he keeps things going with some unique tracking shots and some dazzling compositions. Especially in how he portrays the world of sexual identity and such to showcase that world of the Movida madrilena at its craziest but also at the sense of community it creates for aspiring musicians and artists. There’s also elements of melodrama that Almodovar infuses into the film as it relates to Sexila and Riza’s relationship that includes a flashback sequence of the two as children and what might’ve been the cause for their own issues. Some of these moments would be crucial to the main story but the different storylines that Almodovar creates would suffer the film in terms of pacing where it would become hard to keep up with at times. Overall, Almodovar makes a decent but very inconsequential film about a pop star and a gay prince’s renewed relationship.

Cinematographer Angel Luis Fernandez does nice work with the film‘s cinematography where it has a very colorful and vibrant look while displaying some grainy look in its camera. Editors Jose Salcedo, Pablo Perez Minguez, and Miguel Fernandez do terrific work with the editing where it plays into a sense of style with some jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play out some of its humor. Pedro Almodovar and co-production designer Andres Santana, with art director Virginia Rubio, do excellent work with the set pieces from the look of the rehearsal spaces Sexila and Riza‘s different bands have as well as Sexila‘s home that is quite lavish to play into her personality.

Costume designers Alfred Caral and Marina Rodriguez do superb work with the costumes to play up the lavish look of the world the characters live in as well as the posh clothes of Toraya. Sound supervisors Armin Fausten and Martin Muller is excellent for the atmosphere of the concerts and parties as well as some of the moments of suspense. The film’s music by Bernardo Bonezzi and Fabio McNamara is fantastic as it’s a mixture of new wave and post-punk music with some disco as well as some classical pieces that emerges in the film.

The film’s cast includes some notable small roles from Agustin Almodovar as a Muslim student, Pedro Almodovar and Fabio McNamara as cabaret performers, Angel Alcazar as a dim-witted singer whom Riza replaced, Cristina Sanchez Pascual as that singer’s controlling girlfriend, Ofelia Angelica as Sexila’s shrink who wants to sleep with Sexila’s father, Luis Ciges as Queti’s very troubled and sexually-addicted father, Fernando Vivanco as Sexila’s very frigid and detached father whom Queti would fall for, and in his film debut, Antonio Banderas as a Muslim student who falls for Riza as he isn’t sure about capturing him for a large reward. Marta Fernandez Muro is pretty good as the sexually-confused Queti who idolizes Sexila as she later becomes her doppelganger.

Helga Line is wonderful as the Empress Toraya who pursues Riza for her own selfish reasons as she becomes the person that Sexila has to deal with. Imanol Arias is excellent as Prince Riza Niro as a gay man hiding from Muslim extremists and his stepmother while dealing with his own identity and what he wants to do with his life. Finally, there’s Cecilia Roth in a fantastic performance as Sexila as this very vibrant and crazy nymphomaniac who deals with her issues as well as trying to get her career as a pop singer going as she is one of the film’s highlights.

Laberinto de pasiones is a decent but very messy film from Pedro Almodovar. While it has a great cast and a fantastic soundtrack, it couldn’t overcome the numerous storylines and its pacing issues to keep the film to be very engaging. In the end, Laberinto de pasiones is a troubled and disappointing film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2


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