Thursday, June 12, 2014

Matador (1986 film)




Directed by Pedro Almodovar and written by Almodovar and Jesus Ferrero, Matador is the story of a matador student who confesses to a murder that he didn’t commit as forces beyond his control involving other people start to unfold about the real mysteries of the murder. The film is a dark exploration into the world of faith, sex, and death as it plays into the complicated world of a retired matador, his student, his young lover, and the student’s defense attorney in this strange yet complex story. Starring Antonio Banderas, Assumpta Serna, Carmen Maura, Eva Cobo, Eusebio Poncela, Julieta Serrano, Chus Lampreave, Veronica Forque, and Nacho Martinez. Matador is a mesmerizing and offbeat film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film is this very unconventional mystery that is driven by a young yet repressed matador student whose attempt to rape a model has him confessing to a series of mysterious murders. Yet, it’s a film that plays into a world of sexuality and death as the film opens with these very chilling scenes of death where a man is masturbating to images of murders while a woman would kill her lover with a hairpin. It sets the tone for what is coming as Angel (Antonio Banderas) desires to be a matador but he is repressed sexually as well as in other things due to his more traditional upbringing by his mother (Julietta Serrano). That repression and his attempted rape on Eva (Eva Cobo) would send Angel into an uncertainty while his confession gets the attention of his matador teacher/Eva’s boyfriend Diego Montez (Nacho Martinez) and a defense attorney in Maria Cardenal (Assumpta Serna) who would take Angel’s case to see if she can help him.

The film’s screenplay has a very odd structure where the first act is about Angel trying to prove his manhood to Diego who questioned him if he was gay. In his attempt to prove his manhood by raping Eva, it would only show how repressed and lost he is through his own upbringing as his mother’s prompting to confess to his priest would only cause Angel to become lost in his guilt. The second act involves not just Diego and Maria as they try to figure out the case but also their own encounter with each other as there is this very unlikely attraction. Maria is a fan of Diego’s time as a bullfighter while it is clear that there is something about them that is off causing the detective (Eusebio Poncela) to wonder if Angel knows something as he asks the criminal psychologist Julia (Carmen Maura) to help. The film’s third act would involve Eva, who is deeply in love with Angel, where she not only learns about the true nature of the murder as Angel in his own troubled state would also make some revelations into the truth.

Pedro Almodovar’s direction definitely has a degree of style in not just his approach to framing but also in the mood he conveys as he definitely brings in elements of surrealism and melodrama into the film. Especially in the latter as there’s a scene where Diego and Maria find themselves in a movie theater watching the ending of King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun as it showcased the desire they would have for each other later on. Much of the direction has Almodovar use a lot of smooth dolly pans to create a mood with its wide and medium shots to play into the worlds that Diego and Maria live in as well as the more oppressed environment of Angel. The themes of faith are quite evident in the film as it relates to Angel and his mother as she is this old-school traditionalist who would pressure Angel to always answer to God as he starts to lose himself mentally. Angel’s mother is a very sharp contrast to Eva’s more liberal mother (Chus Lampreave) who is an artist as she is more in tune with is happening while Angel’s mother convinced that her son has sinned.

There is also a dangerous approach to sexuality in the way the film begins where a man masturbates to images of murder as well as a woman killing a man while having sex. It’s among the aspects in Almodovar’s direction that plays to elements of extreme where its climax takes that sexual extreme to another level. Once the sex is mixed in with this gruesome idea of violence as it relates to the art of bullfighting, it plays into not just the unraveling of the mystery but also into a world that doesn’t really make much sense as far as what Eva and Angel are concerned since they come from two very disparate backgrounds. Overall, Almodovar creates a very dark yet evocative film about people’s desires and their own sense of emotional and sexual repression.

Cinematographer Angel Luis Fernandez does brilliant work with the film‘s very vibrant and stylish cinematography to capture the lush look of red as well as some of the colorful exteriors in some of the film‘s locations in Madrid along with some of its lighting in its interior scenes. Editor Jose Salcedo does amazing work in creating some stylish cuts from the use of dissolves for a surreal sequence involving Angel as well as jump-cuts to play into its suspense and drama. Production designer Fernando Sanchez, with set decorators Roman Arango, Pin Morales, and Josep Rosell, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Diego lives and teaches as well as the more stylish world that Eva and her mother lives in.

Costume designer Jose Maria de Cossio does incredible work with the costumes where he uses red to help with the look of the film a dress that Eva wears as well as the clothes that Maria wears in the film. The sound work of Bernard Ortion is superb for some of the sound effects that is created as well as the sparseness in some of the moments such as Diego displaying his moves despite his career-ending injury. The film’s music by Bernardo Bonezzi is phenomenal for its chilling score that mixes orchestral music with some flamenco as well as some eerie electronic pieces to play into its suspense and drama.

The film’s great cast includes some cameo appearances from Pedro Almodovar as a fashion designer, his brother Agustin as a cop, Bibiana Fernandez as a flower vendor, Veronica Forque as a fashion reporter, Carmen Maura as a police psychologist who falls for Angel, and Eusebio Poncela in a terrific performance as the detective who leads the investigation as he often is baffled by the behavior of women. Julietta Serrano and Chus Lampreave are wonderful in their respective roles as the mothers of Angel and Eva as they bring in polarizing ideas about motherhood and morals where the former is very strict while the latter is more outgoing. Eva Cobo is excellent as the model Eva who has a very lovesick obsession towards Diego despite their age difference as she also endures being raped by Angel despite his naivete.

Antonio Banderas is fantastic as Angel as this young matador student who starts to unravel mentally due to his oppressive upbringing and desire to prove that he’s a man as it’s a performance told with such restraint and sensitivity. Nacho Martinez is superb as the very masculine yet repressed Diego as this once-great matador who teaches his students the art of killing a bull as it plays to a sense of melancholia that would later be shadowed by something much darker. Finally, there’s Assumpta Serna in an exhilarating performance as Angel’s lawyer Maria Cardenal as this woman who is quite offbeat as she wants to prove that Angel is innocent as she also has this obsession about Diego that showcases a darker side of her that would attract Diego.

Matador is a ravishing yet visceral film from Pedro Almodovar. Armed with a great cast led by Assumpta Serna, Nacho Martinez, and Antonio Banderas as well as a fantastic score. The film is definitely one of Almodovar’s early triumphs as well as one of his most dangerous and provocative films that explores the world of oppression and extreme sexuality. In the end, Matador is a remarkable film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - 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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