Sep

16

What To Rent

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In which film savant Iggy Cortez recommends a película and gives justification for enjoying Almodóvar.

It’s always good to start the year with a film both iconic and obvious, and Almodovar’s 1998 All About My Mother is both a classic of the college-dorm-poster variety and obligatory watching for anyone remotely interested in European cinema of the past twenty years. On the surface, All About My Mother is a melodrama about a nurse who copes with her teenage son’s death by returning to Barcelona in search of the boy’s father. But with Almodovar things are never to be taken purely at face value, and this film is more accurately about the history of spectatorship, the imaging of gender, the celebration of the peripheral and the interplay between art and life.

Of course, the subtexts within this movie, however complex, can be readily decoded by even the least precocious of teenagers, which has not prevented some of the country’s most well-regarded critics from publishing rather short-sighted misreadings of Almodovar’s film as merely camp and politically complacent. Micheal Atkinson from The Voice, for instance, calls it “as unrebellious a film as one could imagine coming from a once- terrible enfant … [its] womb-like warmth and post-camp bathos has only led him to more conservative areas.” Such a critique betrays the all too prevalent mentality among American critics that directors who happen to be minorities have to entertain a usually insipid and literalist approach to socially committed art. But Almodovar is too sophisticated and mature a director to engage in the bourgeois-titilating shock theatrics for which Atkinson mystifyingly advocates.  In its visually breathtaking engagement with the over-arching discourse surrounding a broad gamut of identities, All About My Mother’s quiet subversions have an ultimately greater resonance than any sort of didactic allegory.

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12 Comments

  1. acolyte  

    iggy cortez is the apotheosis of good taste!

  2. quiqui  

    Ugh. This reminds me of something I overheard in the bathroom after seeing a Buster Keaton quadruple feature at Film Forum:

    Hipster girl #1: "So... what is so great about Buster Keaton anyway?"

    Hipster girl #2: "..."[ she launches into a discussion of his revolutionary film techniques etc, completely missing the obvious point]" BECAUSE HE'S FUCKING FUNNY.

    Anyway, film-savants get a bit tiring.

    Also, I may be missing something, but why is Pedro Almodovar a film-maker who happens to be a minority?

  3. Dissatisfied  

    What is this? I don't doubt that the review is right, but come on..."celebration of the peripheral?" This whole thing sounds like sociology class, not like a movie I want to see.

  4. Also

    In other news, having seen this at the Almodovar retrospective at Lincoln Plaza (aka the Old People Theatre), I was disgusted to learn that it's out-of-print on DVD.

  5. 2nd to last sentence  

    has a grammatical error. The word "for" should be removed...Atkinson advocates shock theatrics, not Atkinson advocates *for* shock theatrics.

    I mostly point this out because it's so difficult to notice amidst the disgusting non-fiction equivalent of purple prose.

  6. roberto  

    great review. good job pointing out something more substantial than "it is poweful" (barf).

  7. Eva  

    mad props on the movie choice and the insightful review.

  8. innocence mission  

    i love cookies. i hate sufjan.

  9. Abc  

    Films, well made, do not engage in dialogues. They are stories.

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