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Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Pedro Almodóvar: a woman’s director?

Por: | 09 de septiembre de 2011

The-Skin-I-Live-In

I haven’t bothered to go to the cinema to see a Pedro Almodóvar film for two decades: Kika was the final straw. A year or so ago, I downloaded a bunch of them to see if either Pedro or I had changed. We hadn’t.

But the presence of Antonio Banderas in Almodóvar’s latest cinematic offering encouraged me to trot along to the Cines Ideal in Madrid to take in The Skin I Live In on the big screen.

As we all know, Almodóvar is celebrated for creating dramatic subversions of popular culture and accepted norms. Almodóvar acknowledges and celebrates that grey area between masculine strength and female sensitivity, is the line usually trotted out. He subverts Spanish stereotypes of machismo by presenting strong, independent women who take on and improve on male roles. His films are odes to femininity, the maternal instinct, and the thirst for drama. In short, like so many gay men he is somehow closer to women’s sensitivities, he understands them, he is closer to them. And when it comes to transsexuals, well, who ya gonna call?

Almodóvar breaks clichés about transsexuals. In his movies, they are not reduced simply to men who believe themselves to be female and who wish to, or do, live full-time as women as some would have us believe. Oh no, instead they choose to mainly express the feminine part of themselves, but still live outside of common sex and gender dichotomies.

For example, in The Law of Desire, Tina, played by a woman (Carmen Maura), is a post-operated transsexual who has had a daughter with a lesbian. She nevertheless used to be in love with her father and still has affairs with men. In the same movie, the transsexual actress Bibi Andersen plays a lesbian character who is a real woman. Letal, in High Heels, is a well-known drag queen who performs imitations of Becky, a famous singer whose daughter he wants to seduce. During the day, he becomes either Hugo or the hyper-masculine Judge Domínguez. Both of these transsexuals differ from Agrado, a half-operated transsexual, played by transsexual Antonia San Juan playing a genuine woman in All About My Mother. Finally, if a real transsexual playing a post-operated transsexual appears at some points in Bad Education, the story mainly focuses on Ángel, a straight actor whose ambition leads him into sleeping with a gay director and to play a transsexual in order to succeed in cinema. So, no stereotypes or clichés there, right?

In The Skin I Live In, Almodóvar comes up with a new twist on transsexuality, which I won’t go into here for fear of being accused of a plot spoiler.

But back to the women. The real ones. Looking over his illegally downloaded films I came across one after another dumb, neurotic, fucked-up, emotionally backward, sexually rapacious, or sexually confused clichéd female character. Of course Almodóvar himself is the main source of the myth that he is a woman’s director: he rarely misses an opportunity to bring up his childhood in rural Spain, surrounded by capable, tough, straight-talking women.

“La Mancha at the time was a very, very conservative part of the country to live in. Very chauvinistic, as well, very male-dominated in its attitudes. But men never realised that it was actually the women who were running the household; they were the ones in charge. I think that came through in the films that I made because it was part of my own natural makeup. I was surrounded by all these women and they were the ones that really made me,” said Pedro in a recent interview for website littlewhitelies.com.

So how come he doesn’t ever include any of these intelligent, developed, clear-minded, or substantial women in his films?

The widely accepted myth that Pedro is the man who loves women simply doesn't bear scrutiny. Approach his films without the background chatter and the idea is clearly preposterous.

What’s really puzzling is why this big lie about Almodóvar is so endlessly peddled by so many people in the media, and why so many people have chosen to swallow it.

 

Hay 12 Comentarios

Thank you for this article. I can not see where these strong women are either. I went to see The Skin I live In and thought everything looked amazing and the music was fantastic but I left the cinema laughing, much to the annoyance of everyone else.

A Almodovar, haz más cine y menos gilipolleces. Tú puedes.

"So how come he doesn’t ever include any of these intelligent, developed, clear-minded, or substantial women in his films?"
Because he is very GAY. His movies are GAY. And gays aren't interested in the intelligence, degree of development, clear-mindedness, or the substance of women. They are interested in women as moms and as queens only.

English spoken here! You Spaniards are soooo unpolite!!!! FY

Como te han mencionado antes, los papeles de mujeres fuertes, inteligentes y asertivas en la filmografia de Pedro son varios, el mas emblematico para mi es el de Pepa Martinez. en Mujeres; if the girls and transexual in his movies are troubled is because in real life people have problems, and that is not cliche. Is a statement.

I find it upsetting that you choose to download films illegally and then boast about it.
That is not the only confusing or upsetting part of your note. You do reveal the plot of the film and I don't get the point about Antonia San Juan. I think you must be mixing her up with Bibiana Fernández.
If you missed out the many examples of female strength and solidarity you really need to watch those films again, this time properly and legally, please.
Thank you

Una pelicula genial Pedro, como siempre derrochando creatividad y poder.
Tendrias que seguir "pariendo" tus obras son de una originalidad única en estos tiempos que vivimos, sabes bien cuanto hay dentro de ti, haznos el favor, sigue mostrandonos tu genialidad.

Yo la verdadd, que segui a Almodovar en sus inicios. También a su "prole" y fui aguantando poco a poco con el paso de los años. Ya hace tiempo que estoy cansado del divismo de su "prole" y de el mismo, parece que su vanidad no tiene limites. Pido perdón, pero esta gente hace mucho tiempo que dejó de interesarme, también se que hace tiempo que dejó de interesar. Cada cosa que hacen se convierte en un petardeo. En esto incluyo al Barden, que nos es hijo suyo, pero está con una ·hija" suya. Son todos unos petardos.

Señor Almodóvar devuélvame el dinero de las subvenciones que le han dado. Yo no quiero pagar sus películas y sus excesos con mi dinero. No veré su película y recomendaré que no la vean. Con mi dinero al cine cero.

Last week I watch on TV an Almodovar's film (Volver) where Penelope Cruz was playing that role of intelligent, developed, clear-minded, or substantial women you mention.

Carla
www.lasbolaschinas.com

Last week I watch on TV an Almodovar's film (Volver) where Penelope Cruz was playing that role of intelligent, developed, clear-minded, or substantial women you mention.

Carla
www.lasbolaschinas.com

Quiero invitarte a que visites mi blog:

http://www.pianistasdelmundo.blogspot.com

Está dedicado a los mejores pianistas de todos los tiempos, hay videos en directo y enlaces con su biografía.
Si te gusta agregala en tus favoritos,o hazte seguidor, iré incluyendo muchos más.

Muchas gracias por tu tiempo.

Los comentarios de esta entrada están cerrados.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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