Wednesday, September 17, 2014

High Heels (1991 film)

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, Tacones lejanos (High Heels) is the story about the fragile relationship between a famous torch singer and her news reporter daughter where the two find themselves involved in a murder. Inspired by American melodramas, the film isn’t just an exploration about this estranged relationship between two women but also what these two women do to hurt each other. Starring Marisa Paredes, Victoria Abril, and Miguel Bose. Tacones lejanos is a compelling though uneven film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores this tense and fragile relationship between a torch singer and her news reporter daughter as the former returns to Spain to do a series of concerts while the latter has married a former lover of her mother’s. All of which would then lead to a murder mystery where both women are suspects as it would lead to many complications and revelations over the strained relationship between the two women. Much of which involves envy and resentment between the two women as the singer Becky del Paramo (Marisa Paredes) and the news reporter Rebeca (Victoria Abril) come to terms with their disdain for one another as well as the root of this schism.

Pedro Almodovar’s screenplay starts off very well in the way it plays the troubled relationship between Becky and Rebeca as it would be furthered by the latter’s marriage to Manuel (Feodor Atkine) whom Becky had been with many years ago. Yet, the marriage is already troubled which would lead to a brief affair between Manuel and Becky but one that is unfulfilling as Manuel has another lover. Then the film shifts gears into a mystery where Rebeca becomes very despondent over what happens as she is questioned by a judge (Miguel Bose) who wants to know what happened. Even as he would make some revelations about the relationship between mother and daughter as it would lead some very dramatic moments in the second act. Just as the first two acts would create something that is intriguing, the film would then fall apart in its third act not just in some of the twists that are unveiled but in how messy and uneven the story would become.

Almodovar’s direction is quite stylish in not just in the way he composes a scene but also capture elements of the drama where one of its obvious influences in the film is Ingmar Bergman’s whose 1978 film Autumn Sonata is referenced. There’s some unique close-ups and framing devices that Almodovar would use to play into the tension between Becky and Rebeca as well as the way the camera would capture these moments in medium shots and wide shots with very few close-ups of the two together as they would only be used in single shots. The film would also have some very entrancing moments such as Becky, Rebeca, and Manuel watching a tribute performance to Becky by a drag singer as well as Becky’s own singing performances. Yet, there’s also some offbeat moments such as a choreographed dancing in a prison as well as some moments in the third act which definitely provides some shifting tones that eventually becomes confusing and incomprehensive despite its very powerful ending. Overall, Almodovar crafts a very intriguing though very messy film about a troubled relationship between a mother and her daughter.

Cinematographer Alfred Mayo does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography to capture every sense of detail in many of the film‘s interior settings including the scenes at the club as well as some of the exteriors in the way Madrid looks. Editor Jose Salcedo does fantastic work with the editing with its stylish approach to dissolves as well as jump-cuts to play into some of the film‘s humor and melodrama. Production designer Pierre-Louis Thevenet, with set decorator Julian Mateos and art director Carlos Garcia Cambero, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the different homes the two women live as well as the look of the club and court house that the characters would go to.

Costume designer Jose Maria de Cossio does excellent work with the costumes from the dresses that Becky would wear as well as the Karl Lagerfeld-designed Chanel suits and dresses that Rebeca would wear. The sound work of Jean-Paul Mugel is terrific for some of the sound work that occurs including one key moment of the film that would drive the story towards its second act. The film’s music by Ryuichi Sakamoto is pretty good as it features some low-key orchestral pieces while most of the music consists of jazz pieces by Miles Davis as well as classic torch songs and some score pieces by George Fenton in some of the dramatic moments.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small appearances from Rocio Munoz as a young Rebeca, Nacho Martinez as Rebeca’s father, Pedro Diez del Corral as Rebeca’s step-father in a flashback sequence, Miriam Diaz Aroca as the sign-language reporter, Anna Lizaran as Becky’s assistant Margarita, Cristina Marcos as a social worker that Rebeca meets, and Javier Bardem in a very small role as a TV director. Feodor Atkine is terrific as Rebeca’s husband Manuel who has a disdain for drag queens and is cruel to Rebeca as he seeks to renew his affair with Becky. Miguel Bose is fantastic as the young judge who looks over into this case as he tries to question the two women over their troubled relationship.

Marisa Paredes is great as Becky del Parmo as this torch singer who returns to Spain to give a series of homecoming concerts as she tries to deal with a murder mystery as well as her tense relationship with her daughter. Finally, there’s Victoria Abril in a phenomenal performance as Rebeca as this young woman who tried to reconcile with her mother as she is dealing with being in her mother’s shadow as well as being in a loveless marriage as it’s a performance filled with anguish as well as excitement as her scenes with Paredes are just astonishing to watch.

Tacones lejanos is a stellar yet messy film from Pedro Almodovar. While it features a great cast and beautiful images, it’s a film that has Almodovar trying to infuse many genres where it starts off great but has a very messy third act that hinders the film a bit. In the end, Tacones lejanos is a really good yet flawed film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - 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! - 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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