Thursday, June 26, 2014

Law of Desire

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, La ley del deseo (Law of Desire) is the story of a complicated love triangle between a homosexual filmmaker, his transsexual sister, and an obsessive stalker. The film is an exploration into not just homosexual love but also transsexuality as the film showcases Almodovar creating something that mixes melodrama with the edginess of his early work. Starring Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, Eusebio Poncela, Bibi Andersen, and Miguel Molina. La ley del deseo is a ravishing yet intensely-gripping film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores a very complicated affair between a revered homosexual filmmaker and a stalker whose sick obsession would lead into trouble as it would also involve the filmmaker’s transsexual sister. It’s a film that plays not into just obsession but also a man who has put himself into this troubling relationship as he’s in love with another man who has gone on a holiday. Meanwhile, his sister Tina (Carmen Maura), who was once his brother, is trying to make it as an actress while taking care of their niece Ada (Manuela Velasco) whose mother (Bibi Andersen) is away in Japan. For Pablo Quintero (Eusebio Poncela), his relationship with Antonio (Antonio Banderas) starts to become overwhelming where Pablo would write letters to Antonio as a woman so that Antonio’s mother (Helga Line) would believe that her son is straight. Unfortunately, things become complicated as writer/director Pedro Almodovar creates something that is this wild mix of melodrama with suspense as well as dark humor.

The film’s screenplay not only showcases an affair that becomes chaotic but also a woman’s life as she is looking for something good in her life while caring for her niece as they’re both seeking some form of spiritual comfort. Tina is a woman who has been locking up a secret that her brother doesn’t want to know as she tries to live a life without a man with the exception of Pablo. Pablo’s relationship with Antonio is really a fling as he’s trying to work on a script for a new film yet remains devoted to his lover Juan (Miguel Molina). Once Antonio finds out about Juan, troubles brew as Almodovar would present this in a very melodramatic yet eerie style that is dark but also would push Pablo into facing his own faults. Especially as it’s third act forces him to deal with his consequences over his relationship with Antonio and how it nearly destroyed his own relationship with Tina.

Almodovar’s direction is filled with style not just in terms of the compositions he creates but also in the mood. The way he opens the film where a young man is masturbating is a showcase of what is to come from Almodovar as there this air of shock value. Much of it involves some racy sex scenes between two men which was very out there during the mid-1980s in the age of AIDS yet Almodovar doesn’t go too far but rather showcase a sense of passion in the relationship between Pablo and Antonio. The character of Tina is another aspect of the film that is quite daring since she is this transsexual character who thinks of herself as a woman but if she’s going to be in a fight. She’ll fight like a man and don’t care if she gets hit as there is that complexity to the character.

Much of Almodovar’s compositions are very entrancing from the slow pans on the dolly camera that he creates as well some unique camera angles and wide shots to present this lush world that is Madrid in its discos, cinemas, theaters, and clothing boutiques to present something that is very lively. Yet, there is that element of darkness and danger that occurs in the third act as its climax is very chilling but also very ambiguous over what is happening and such. Overall, Almodovar creates a very rich yet haunting film about a filmmaker coming to terms with himself and the people he surrounds himself with.

Cinematographer Angel Luis Fernandez does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from the way some of the nighttime exteriors are shot as well as some of the interior lighting as well as the vibrancy of Madrid and other locations in Spain. Editor Jose Salcedo does amazing work in creating some unique cutting style from split-screens as well as rhythmic cuts and dissolves to play into the drama and suspense. Art director Javier Fernandez and set decorator Ramon Moya do fantastic work with the look of Pablo’s apartment as well as the religious shrine that Tina and Ada pray to along with the theatrical sets that Tina would perform in.

Costume designer Jose Maria de Cossio does excellent work with the costumes from the shirt that Pablo and Antonio would wear to the clothes that Tina would wear including a Betty Boop t-shirt she and Ada would wear as pajamas. The sound work of Jim Willis is superb for some of the atmosphere of the locations as well as the use of voiceovers that often occur whenever Pablo is writing. The film’s music by Bernardo Bonezzi is terrific for its mixture of Spanish-based balladry with some orchestral music as the soundtrack includes some classical pieces and Spanish ballads that play into the film’s drama.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small roles from Rossy de Palma as a TV interviewer, Victoria Abril as a girlfriend of Juan, Nacho Martinez as a sympathetic doctor that helps Tina and Pablo, Fernando Guillen and Fernando Guillen Cuervo as a father-son police team, Helga Line as Antonio’s mother, and Bibiana Fernandez (in her Bibi Andersen alias) as Ada’s often-absent mother. Manuela Velasco is very good as Tina and Pablo’s niece Ada who always seek some spiritual answers while preferring the company of Tina and Pablo than her mother. Miguel Molina is terrific as Pablo’s lover Juan who goes on a holiday to find himself while dealing with the state of their relationship as he would eventually cause a schism between Pablo and Antonio.

Carmen Maura is phenomenal as Tina as this transsexual actress who deals with her identity as she wants to become an actress while dealing with the work that her brother is writing as it’s a role that is quite ballsy but also one that exudes femininity as it’s one of Maura’s great performances. Eusebio Poncela is brilliant as Tina’s brother Pablo Quintero as this filmmaker who writes about the struggles of women and homosexuality as he tries to juggle his own relationships as well as how his work sometimes cause tension between himself and Tina. Finally, there’s Antonio Banderas in a remarkable performance as Antonio as this very troubled and obsessive stalker who is in love with Pablo yet couldn’t deal with sharing Pablo with anyone else as it’s a very dangerous and intense performance from Banderas as well as one of highlights in his collaboration with Almodovar.

La ley del deseo is an incredible film from Pedro Almodovar that is highlighted by the top-tier performances of Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, and Eusebio Poncela. The film isn’t just one of Almodovar’s quintessential films but also one of his darkest and most dangerous as it showcases what he can in explore transsexuality and homosexuality. In the end, La ley del deseo is a lurid yet sensational film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - 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 - Julieta - Pain & Glory - (The Human Voice (2020 short film)) - (Parallel Mothers)

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

© thevoid99 2014

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