Thursday 16 May 2013

Viva Pedro Almodóvar! Pepi, Luci, Bom Y Otras Chicas Del Montón (1980)

Viva Pedro Almodóvar indeed. You might have read my introduction about my Viva Pedro Almodóvar project, however I have decided to slightly amend the way I'm going to do this. Rather than posting weekly posts of three capsule reviews, I will just publish a middle sized review for each of his films as I watch (or mostly, rewatch!) them along, hopefully weekly. I just love the idea of going through the full filmography of a director I admire so much in full chronological order and seeing his style and talent progress over the films. So first off his first film, or, as it turned out, not quite his first film.

Plot: Pepi (Carmen Maura) seeks revenge on the police officer who raped her by introducing his shy wife Luci (Eva Siva) to her world of debauchery and unbridled morals, a world she accustoms herself to a bit too well!

What I assumed to be Pedro Almodovar's first feature length film after a serie of shorts (which, I take it, are all lost) actually isn't, his first was Folle, Folle, Folléme Tim!, which I will not translate or risk being banned from Blogger. Watching Pepi, Luci, Bom Y Otras Chicas Del Montón (who on Earth came up with the stupid English title?!), you obviously have to be lenient. With zero production values (and indeed, no production company behind it, the film having been funded mainly by his friends!), Pepi, Luci, Bom..., released in 1980, a year exactly after the introduction of democracy in Spain, feels like a window on La Movida, with a free flowing storyline that was most probably made up as it went along.

It is as if Pedro Almodóvar just found a flimsy excuse of a story and basically documented his own lifetstyle, filming all the people he hung out with at the time, actors, musicians... including Olvido Gara, aka Alaska (from the wonderful 80's Spanish band Alaska y los Pegamoides), aka Fangoria. And of course Carmen Maura, the early muse of the director, who shines in her first leading role with him. Also watch out for Cecilia Roth (Todo Sobre Mi Madre) in a hysterically funny cameo !

There are obviously some very amusing moments (including the hilarious fake adverts that the Spanish director used up again in later films), but there is also very little structure, with a lot of it really just serving to fill the running time. Yet you can't help but feel the wonderful sense of freedom in every possible way that those involved in the film and indeed, Spanish people at large, experienced at the time, this is punk cinema at its best, rebelling against decades of oppression.

And you can see hints of the director's burgeoning style: the eccentric but likeable characters, the provocation that feels more good natured than mean-spirited, the strong and independent women pitted against male oppression... Speaking of which, the film actually ends on a rather dark note, with the shadow of the machist Spanish culture still very much present even in those years of rising cultural and moral enlightenment.

Pepi, Luci, Bom Y Otras Chicas Del Montón is a fun if inconspicuous debut, which nevertheless planted the seeds of better things to come. Next up: Laberinto De Pasiones (Labyrinth Of Passions).

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