Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodovar

Paul Julian Smith, Author
Paul Julian Smith, Author Verso $60 (169p) ISBN 978-0-86091-497-6
Paperback - 169 pages - 978-0-86091-662-8
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A thoughtful scholar and evident fan, Smith situates the nine feature films of Spanish director Almodovar within the shifting politics of post-Franco Spain, international debates about gender and sexuality, and the codes of Hollywood (particularly slasher films, melodramas and work by Douglas Sirk, Frank Tashlin and Alfred Hitchcock). Almodovar's films, he argues, seek ``truth in travesty,'' partly by calling attention to cinematic artifice and representing gender and sexuality as stylized performance. Smith also contextualizes Almodovar's work, comparing its reception in Spain to that in other European countries and America--though a consideration of other Spanish-speaking markets might have been even more enlightening. He notes, for example, that Spanish audiences particularly appreciate the casting of straight actor Antonio Banderas in a gay role and of ``genuine girl'' Carmen Maura as a transsexual, communicating ``a certain bracketing of gender identity'' that might be missed elsewhere. Smith points out that Anglo-American critics consumed with the supposed misogyny of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! missed the important theme of addiction. Although Smith's prose, informed by the psychoanalytic discourse of linguistics and feminist theory, occasionally threatens to deflate the delightful flamboyance of his subject, and some of his arguments beg for further development, his essays present a finely observed, compelling case for the seriousness and complexity of a cinema dedicated to evoking ``the fragility of sexual difference.'' (Apr.)
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