On the verge of a genre breakdown
¡Átame!, Tacones lejanos, and Kika
in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
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This chapter analyses three films, all of which received a mixed critical reception, particularly outside Spain. It argues that the underlying reason for this critical and commercial backlash is Almodóvar’s increased experimental playfulness with genre and tone. The films draw on the thriller, slasher films, and pornography. This blending is employed to satirise the socially accepted links between love and violence. ¡Átame! and Kika in particular were criticised for their representation of violence against women, but criticism of all three films based on distaste of taboo-breaking in regard to gender violence miss the point. These films are indirect satires of contemporary society, sending up the genres they cannibalise. An analysis of the films’ use of distancing techniques such as mise-en-abyme, defamiliarisation, incongruity, and exaggeration leads to a discussion of the influence of European Romantic orientalism and their deconstruction of gender, sexuality, and Spanishness through the use of a high-camp, postmodern aesthetic. Additionally, sexual violence is discussed as allegorical in relation to unresolved past violence and the Spanish dictatorship. These are films about the past as much as the present.

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