Ana María Sánchez-Arce
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Pure theatre
Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios
in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
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This chapter analyses the film that propelled Almodóvar to international stardom, considering its intertextual relationship to Jean Cocteau’s La voix humaine and Almodóvar’s previous film, La ley del deseo, and the role of its star Carmen Maura in fostering these and other intertextual connections to Hollywood classics. The chapter argues that this comedy hides a depth that has not always been recognised. The chapter focuses on gender politics, explaining that intersectionality (class and gender) is central to characterisation. There is a subtext to Pepa’s desperate search for Iván to be found in Spain’s then legal and social contexts on single mothers and abortion. The discussion of gender leads to a critique of the film’s reception, which has focused on women’s mental health instead of the film’s focus on patriarchy and the behaviour of the male characters. This is apparent in the film’s blending of a comic mise-en-scène and narrative structure with cinematography more associated with melodrama and tragedy. Artificiality draws attention to the problematic nature of gender constraints and construction in a metamodern rather than a postmodern way.

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