His first real break into the industry came with the release of his 1988 piece Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) a light comedy whose narrative and themes marked the beginning of those that audiences now find so recognisable within his films; lightening fast dialogue and well-paced action that walk hand in hand with issues of secrecy, passion and love.
Very much inspired by the “women’s pictures” of the 1950’s Almodovar’s films are also known for their sumptuous visuals; high colour and glossy, sometimes almost overwhelming décor populate these pieces, matching up the strong and often fluctuating emotions of his central characters.
Almodovar’s later films are considered by some to be less accessible than some of his earlier work, particular when contrasted against the rather tame Women on the Verge, films such as Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) and All About My Mother (1999) which contain more explicit content and explore more taboo themes. Yet many critics have applauded Almodovar’s use of unusual and surreal character types to explore the intimate emotions of the central characters of these pictures. Much like many of history’s most prominent directors Almodovar’s film making style refuses to be curtailed by censors and prudish audiences, he uses the themes of sex, abuse and drug use to explore the often complicated inner thoughts and emotions of the women he casts as heroines; often the characters themselves are quite unlike those of their Hollywood rom-com counterparts, their imperfections and emotional baggage tending more towards the socially unacceptable and psychologically profound.
Almodovar is not only known for having an interest in particular narrative themes but he is also well known for reusing and working alongside many of the same actors and actresses. Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas appeared in several of Almodovar’s earlier films whilst Marisa Paredes and Penélope Cruz have played award winning roles in some of his more recent work.
Almodovar has been nominated for ten BAFTA awards however his work has, as of yet, only been recognised by Hollywood for one film, 2002’s Talk to Her (2002), for which Almodovar was nominated for Best Director and won Best Original Screenplay.
Mass popularity it seems is hardly Almodovar’s main priority however; many of his films use popular culture, mass media and pop music to underscore and comment on the commercialism of contemporary society. Often the extreme behaviour of his characters is used as a direct juxtaposition to the seemingly flawless poise of traditional romantic female leads, these characters are passionate, spontaneous and tangibly real, the emotions they feel drive them to wild and outrageous acts of desire and, often, destruction, their resolutions are not clear and their experiences and escapades often messy; yet it is in this that much of the life and comedy of Almodovar’s films flourish.
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