PEDRO ALMODOVAR, FROM COUNTER-CULTURE REVOLUTIONARY TO JURY PRESIDENT AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

NewssliderSpain

Pedro Almodovar

The Spanish democracy no longer needs revolutionary Almodovar to prop it up. And
Almodovar no longers feel the need to provide inspiration to a once needy
country. The intense romance during the days of La Movida between
Almodovar and Madrid
has degenerated to a marriage of
convenience. He’s now at the Cannes Film
Festival presiding over the jury.


By Jack Wright

 

The nation’s capital had begun to simmer when Pedro Almodovar left his rural hometown in Ciudad Real for Madrid back in 1967. Generalissimo Franco (1892 – 1975) was going downhill both in his hold on absolute power and on his health. In contrast, the audacious counterculture La Movida Madrileña was just about to burst forth with all the vigor of a new revolutionary wave.

Malasaña (night scene): the nerve center of La Movida. Much of the barrio’counter-cultural past is still around.

“Call it what you will – hedonistic, flamboyant, debaucherous, subversive, perverse, libertine – the overall sentiment was that taboos don’t exist and the harder you party the better. Thus spawned La Movida, or ‘The Movement,’ a new way of drinking, drugging, rocking, dressing, cross-dressing, creating, loving, living,” according to WhatMadrid.com

But Almodovar says, “It’s difficult to speak of La Movida and explain it to those who didn’t live those years. We weren’t a generation; we weren’t an artistic movement; we weren’t a group with a concrete ideology. We were simply a bunch of people who coincided in one of the most explosive moments in the country. . . Our outlook was in London: we had been cut off from everything and there we saw a full effervescence of the New Wave.”

Promotional poster for “Pepi, Luci, Bom”, Almodovar’s first feature film, 1980, smack in the middle of La Movida

It was the emergence of a new Spanish identity after the 36 long years of repression under the Franco dictatorship. Spain, democratic Western Europe’s pariah, was finally coming into its own after nearly four decades of despotic rule and being ostracized for it.

Soon Almodovar became the gravitational center of the Movida, along with punk rock singer Alaska. Between Spain and Almodovar’s movies there existed a symbiotic relationship in those early years of his film-making career. Those movies were a reflection of the Movida and the profound change that Spain was undergoing as it Transitioned from the old regime to democracy.  At the same time they contributed to the underpinning of the Transition.

Quite apart from the art that went into the production of his movies, the fact that they were critically acclaimed in the United States gave the Spanish people the self-respect and confidence they needed to go on and strengthen their newfound freedom. To them those movies were a proof that they were perfectly capable of overcoming the stigma of the dictatorship.

The permissiveness and liberalism of the ’70s and the ’80s also played into the hands of Pedro Almodovar whose alleged homosexuality had actually become an asset; the powerful gay lobby in New York, as well as in California, were eager to rally behind him.

Almodovar likes to think that his “gay movies” – as opposed to his “straights” (Julieta and Volver) – have helped liberate both the closet queen who shrank from public exposure and the moviegoer who was shackled by homophobia in a world where sexuality is riddled with gray areas: “The furious aesthetic of my films has to do with a liberation that is connected to sexuality.”

 

How’s the Movida icon these days?

The 70th Cannes Film Festival official poster

One could say that the Spanish democracy, in its ripe old age of 39 years (the new Spanish Constitution was ratified in 1978), no longer needs Almodovar to prop it up. Nor does Almodovar feel the need to provide inspiration to a once needy country that is now an unexciting self-sufficient but indeterminate middle-rank actor who has lost the Spanishness that had characterized it during the Movida.

In a recent interview in The New Yorker Almodovar confessed that the marriage of fifty years between himself and Madrid (don’t forget that he arrived in the capital in 1967) has lost its sparkle. The effervescent romance during the days of La Movida has degenerated to a marriage of convenience where there’s hardly nothing left but dull complacency.

But Almodovar adds that “divorce” isn’t in the cards.

Meanwhile he keeps expanding his horizons. He is currently President of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.

—–

Images
>Featured image/Divine Decor via Flickr, CC BY-ND2.0 (Pic shows Almodovar at MOMA’s “TRIBUTE TO PEDRO ALMODOVAR”, 2011)
>Malasaña night scene, PD
>Pepi, Luci, Bom poster, Fair use
>Cannes Film Festival, Fair use


About Jack
Jack has been with Guidepost for more than a decade now and sees no end to his association with The Dean. He travels around with his ubiquitous laptop, ready to pound it when a story hits him. He loves writing and doesn’t shy away from controversy; he could be mordant in his articles.
Jack has a bachelor’s degree with Political Science for major.