A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988)

Pedro Almodóvar's brightly colored farce Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown put him on the map as an auteur to be reckoned with. It's a grand stew of a film that takes the premise of Jean Cocteau's serious play La Voix Humaine and turns it into a nod to classic Hollywood screwball comedy touched with feminism and the brand of liberated hedonism peculiar to post-Franco Spain. It's also a superb product of the gay sensibility, to the point that it's easy to imagine the roles of Pepa (Carmen Maura), Candela (Maria Barranco), Marisa (Rossy de Palma), and Lucia (Julieta Serrano) played by drag queens. But although it verges on camp -- Pepa, a soap opera actress, dubs Joan Crawford's voice in a Spanish release of Nicholas Ray's perhaps unintentionally camp Western Johnny Guitar (1954) -- it has at its core Almodóvar's genuine affection for his characters. The gloriously sunny decor of the film is the product of set decorators José Salcedo and Félix Murcia, and the costumes are by José María de Cossío. The cinematographer is Almodóvar's frequent collaborator José Luis Alcaine.