Sunday, July 22, 2007

Talk To Her (2002)

I've been a huge fan of Pedro Almodóvar's films for some time now. And while I love his 80's films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Law of Desire, it's his four most recent films that have really solidified his place as one of the most exciting directors working these days. While each summer, we get inundated with so called "event" films, like Harry Potter and The _____ or Transformers, Almodóvar's films are the true events for me. I look forward to them even before they open in the U.S., and I will generally travel as far as Sarasota to catch it as soon as I can.

With All About My Mother (1999), which was my first Almodóvar film, it was love at first sight. However, his three subsequent films, Talk To Her (2002), Bad Education (2004), and Volver (2006) took a little more effort. This isn't to say they're difficult to watch. It's more that I have so many personal expectations in place that I'm always left a little disappointed at first. However, time taught me that with any new Almodóvar film, I owe it a second viewing.

It's on that crucial second viewing where my expectations are in check, and I pick up on the details I missed the first time around. But Talk To Her, has managed to work its way to the top of the list for me... not just in terms of Almodóvar's films, but even as one of my favorites, if not the absolute favorite, of the decade.

This offbeat story centers on two couples: Benigno and Alicia and then Marco and Lydia. The two couples are linked through unusual circumstances: Both of the men meet at the hospital where both women lie in comas. During the present, you get to know the two men, and it's interesting to see how differently they handle their respective love interest's predicament. Benigno is a doting caretaker who attends to Alicia's every need and everything he thinks she needs in hopes of a miracle. However, Marco sits by Lydia's bedside, more out of a sense of duty. He views the situation very realistically while Benigno is an unabashed optimist about Alicia's chances for recovery.

Through flashbacks, we learn the true nature both of the romantic relationships, and through these flashbacks, we get a whole new perspective on what's really going on, which sets the film onto a whole new track. Truths are revealed and lies are exposed.

What makes this Almodóvar's crowning achievement, for me at least, is that I've watched this film countless times, yet I still manage to find something in it I didn't catch before, and more and more layers unfold. Another thing that made this film notable in terms of Almodóvar's filmography is that his previous films largely concerned themselves with the camaraderie amongst women and the bonds they share, and his gift for writing female characters. However, Talk To Her showed that he was equally as gifted when exploring the same bonds between men.

The performances from the four principal actors are all quite good, and the film within the film was a genius metaphor. It may seem out of place at first, but when put into context and you figure out what the mini-film Shrinking Lover signifies, it's a pretty bold and inventive approach.

While my preference lies with Talk To Her, this doesn't discount my love for All About My Mother, Bad Education, or Volver. They're all incredible films, each worthy of a later post on here. I guess this is just the one that just worked for me the best and the one that continually amazes me. If I were to have a guest over, and they were interested in seeing an Almodóvar film for the first time, this would be the DVD I would first gravitate toward of the four.

I think anyone familiar with his films has one of the four that they completely adore. I really do adore all four of them, but for me, this is the one that just stands slightly above the rest of them.

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