As Spain’s narrative of itself has changed through the late 1990s and the twenty-first century due to its engagement with historical memory and an interrogation of the country’s democratic credentials, analyses of Almodóvar’s cinema have changed to accommodate this. This book explores the evolving way in which the cinema of Pedro Almodóvar is employed to read Spain within the country and abroad. It focuses on how Almodóvar’s cinema engages with the narrative of the nation and the country’s twentieth- and twenty-first-century history through a metamodern (rather than postmodern) aesthetic. Whereas Almodóvar’s cinema does not wear politics on its sleeve, this book argues that, through using postmodern techniques with an ethical intent, a foregrounding of cinematic excess, and the poetic function, it nevertheless addresses Spain’s traumatic past and its legacy in relation to gender, class, and the precarious position of the LGBTQ+ community. The political nature of Almodóvar's work has been obscured by his alignment with the allegedly apolitical Spanish cultural movement known as la movida, but his cinema is in fact a form of social critique disguised as frivolity. The book offers a comprehensive film-by-film analysis of the cinema of the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, from early transgressive comedies of the 1980s like Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios to award winning dramas like Todo sobre mi madre, Hable con ella, and Dolor y gloria. In doing so, it shows how Almodóvar's films draw on various national cinemas and film genres.
All about Almodóvar, or how to become a Spanish auteur
Ana María Sánchez-Arce
, and postmodernist aesthetics (which typically undermine notions of authorship, intentionality, and ideas of the artist as a creative genius) were seen as auteurial markers, signs of his experimental range of visual styles, by some. Others, mainly critics in Spain as explained above, saw them instead as evidence of Almodóvar’s lack of formal mastery. This book moves beyond these paradigms in arguing that Almodóvar’s films are not postmodern but metamodern.
The first film produced by El Deseo, La ley , was not as easy to fund as the Almodóvar brothers thought and
what Robin van den Akker, Alison Gibbons, and Timotheus Vermeulen call a metamodern structure of feeling:
Metamodern artists often employ similar strategies to their postmodern predecessors in the way that they eclectically quote past styles, freely use older techniques and playfully adopt traditional conventions. Indeed, they, too, recycle the scrapheap of history. Yet, in doing so, metamodern artists attempt to move beyond the worn-out sensibilities and emptied practices of the postmodernists – not by radically parting with their attitudes and techniques
ferocious’ ( 2011 ). The postmodern recycling widely identified is, nevertheless, used within a metamodern structure of feeling as discussed in previous chapters. It is precisely in the discordance between the plot’s horrific events and its aesthetically pleasing form that the film’s horror is to be found.
La piel is predominantly set in El Cigarral, a country house turned prison similar to Ernesto Martel’s mansion in Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces, 2009 ). Both contain the stereotypically opulent décor of melodrama complete with winding staircase where violent
4 It is not the purpose of this introduction to explore the contemporary cultural period, but there is a shift associated with ideas of metamodernism that is evident in these contemporary works, as the tattooist’s ability to ‘call forth’ an inner truth or identity is obvious in a number of examples. This can be seen in Hal Duncan’s new weird series which uses ‘graving’ as an external mark of bringing forth an inner self. For a detailed discussion of metamodernism, see Robin van den Akker et al . (eds) ( 2017 ).
5 Contemporary tattoo
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.
‘metamodernism’ (Vermeulen and van den Akker, 2010 ).
Víctor’s positioning between the historical Puerta de Alcalá and the postmodern Puerta de Europa tells a similar story. Besides being a symbol for masculinity, the actual name of the KIO towers – the door to Europe – points to aspirational Spain, celebrating its new-found place in the European Economic Community. They are a symbol of (post)modernity and capitalism as they were financed by the Kuwait Investment Office (KIO) and are the headquarters of a bank. However, they are also associated by most Spaniards who
representations of the past’ ( 2006 : 116). Whereas Enrique’s film could be seen as nostalgic, La mala educación as a whole is not. Its metacinematic qualities distance viewers from past events and encourage a distrust of ‘representations of the past’. This is crucial to understanding what makes La mala educación , despite the tragic events it recounts, not a historical drama, or a tragedy, or a realist tale of childhood abuse, but a metamodern (postmodern in aesthetic but with underlying ethics) film noir that contains a nostalgically shot drama within. Smith discusses
Faulkner suggests, the ‘tilting crane shot … lifts the image, and our attention, up and away from the workers in order – problematically perhaps – to continue the narrative focus on Leo’s emotional slide’ ( 2013 : 213).
Although La flor looks at first like a departure from Almodóvar’s distinctive aesthetic and exploration of sensitive political and social topics, it is not. The film is markedly different in tone from his comedies but satire and irony continue to support its metamodern attack on social discourses around love, gender, and social inequality. Ryan Prout