TALK TO HER, written & directed by Pedro Almodóvar, reaped o-mouthed printgasms of critical praise in 2002, garnered the thematically confrontational auteur an Oscar for the writing and a nomination for pilot duty. An international box-office success, grossing $64,791,000, about 15% of that in the U.S. market, it’s either feast or famine depending on your reaction to this strange drama. Though many critics and worshipers at the Cult of Pedro could barely walk straight after sitting through this peek into his ever/never evolving psyche, showering it with superlatives, I’m in the minority nay-camp on this one, feeling more like taking a shower when its dream
rapescape was finished. One man’s giant walk-in vagina is another’s velveteen habit. *
Exceedingly unlikely circumstances bring two considerably different men together as friends, joined by their shared respective obsession for two women, both of whom happen to be in comas. Travel journalist ‘Marco’ (Dario Grandinetti) cannot get over his love for lady bullfighter ‘Lydia’ (Rosario Flores), gored into a silent half-life. Marco is fairly macho except for his incessant weeping. Beautician, personal nurse and caregiver ‘Benigno’ (Javier Cámara) is effeminately gay, yet dedicated (to the point of no-return) to attending the perceived spirit in the inert body of ballerina ‘Alicia’ (Leonora Watling), a car vs. pedestrian casualty. This yippy-skippy normal framework established, things then get weird.
From the unbelievable behavior on the gutsy matadora’s part when confronted by a snake in her kitchen (the snake not too subtly representing Men, Fear and we guess–dicks?) to the tender/revolting assault that figures later (the point those of us already nonplussed started to abandon ship) the movie scuppers the fine acting and leaves in place a headache over just how far a director’s mystique can pull a cape over eyes of the beholden. Cámara (Truman) and Grandinetti (Wild Tales) are always compelling actors, singer Flores strikes a good pose in her bullring attire, and Watling looks stellar naked: the camera dwells on it, inviting us to voyeur on—so Mark can, too—we just won’t try to lather latent lascivious leering with some specious pretense of intellectual discovery. It means what it means. So, bravo the players, but the man behind their words and actions leaves them tilting valiantly against the windmills of his own warped interior topography, and this time out the La Mancha machine seem to be missing some blades. I can’t help but ponder if this film had been written & directed—scene-for-exact-scene— by a straight male, one perhaps suffering under the ghastly burden of being an American, if it would not have been so en masse full-frontal pulverized for misogyny that you’d never even know it was made in the first place?
112 minutes, with Geraldine Chaplin, Mariola Fuentes, Elena Anaya, Ana Fernández.
* Almodovar: “The movie is like a declaration of sadness, of melancholy. I did not know if it was going to be understood. It was a radical decision that I took. I do not know why I did it. It was almost like a reaffirmation of myself.” Hermano, could you be any more narcissistic and obtuse?
I was primed to like this movie, but admiration for the acting aside, it left me thinking a vegetative state might be preferable. Check out fellow unimpressed Jimmy O at ‘Film Snobs’ (http://www.filmsnobs.com/www/jimmyo/talktoher.htm), Alex Sandell at ‘Juicy Cerbellum’ ( http://www.juicycerebellum.com/200255.htm) or Joanne Laurier at ‘World Socialist Website’ (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/03/talk-m27.html). I am not alone (sounds better than ‘I do not stand unassisted’).
Another off-putting negative, uncovered by looking into the production backstory, is that apparently five bulls were killed specifically for the film. Not poignant enough with that cruel slaughter for “art’s” sake is the nugget that it appears a number of takes were needed for the scene were Lydia is attacked by the bull: the poor clueless animal always jumped over the dummy without damaging it. Oh, well, what are a few bovine sacrifices, as long as Pedro’s “talking” to us…