Saturday, October 02, 2004

I love directors who start out with nothing but their own passion and go on to make highly individual movies no one else could have made, and so I've always loved Pedro Almodovar, just as I love John Cassavetes and Satyajit Ray.

When Almodovar is on fire -- as he was in What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Law of Desire, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, All About My Mother and the recent Talk to Her, there's no one like him. (Others, like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown -- his first huge success -- and The Flower of My Secret simply left me cold.)

As has often been noted, he works in the melodramatic tradition of Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but he's neither as sentimental as the former nor as grim as the latter; he's a swank humanist off on his own planet, with a multi-hued visual style that is as florid and frantic as his characters' lives. He loves these people and their insane passions; it comes as no surprise to learn, in Lynn Hirschberg's superb New York Times Magazine profile, that he's an absolute perfectionist about capturing the exact texture of their worlds.

''It takes a very long time because I often do it myself. I'm a nightmare for set designers, but it's the only way I know how to do it ... I have to find new production designers all the time. But I'm not sure I want to give up my idea of things. I desperately need to find a twin soul.''

Almodóvar is very particular. He will give line readings to his actors and reject a passage of the musical score five times, and he scrutinizes every frame of the film. "Pedro doesn't fall in love with any shots,' [Almodovar editor Jose (Pepe)] Salcedo said. ''He never falls in love with his own work. The best take will be one that Pedro would have done himself, because he knows his work so well that he can act out every part. And his temper can flare."

''I never wanted to go to Hollywood. That was not my goal. I don't want to be offensive, but I get the idea that Hollywood is not demanding about scripts. And what most concerns me is the value of a script. I never trust that I'm going to have complete freedom in Hollywood."

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